Government ‘working on plan’ to help households

The Government is working on plans to help households with the cost of electricity bills in response to the rising cost of energy.

Senior Ministers have said proposals are being discussed while stopping short of confirming a report that it will amount to €100 for all households.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said he expects households to be offered help with electricity bills in the new year.

He said: “It’s something we’ll discuss. I do expect that yes, but it’s something that will have to be decided on by Cabinet.” Mr O’Brien said he didn’t have details of the plan.

The Irish Independent reported on Friday that the support would be €100 per household.

Mr O’Brien said the Government is “acutely aware of the cost of living has increased substantially – inflation is up”.

He said it is not just an Irish phenomenon and that countries across Europe are seeing big increases in energy costs.

Mr O’Brien said: “I do expect measures in the new year to be able to ameliorate some of the increases, particularly for those who can afford it least and that’s what our focus will be.”

Asked if the mooted €100 will be enough he said: “That will be a matter that will be discussed in more detail by Government.

“But look I’m aware as well – it’s not just energy – other costs have gone up too, and increases in cost of living make it difficult for families to be able to manage so we’ll do what we can.”

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the Government was looking at measures to help people with their bills but stopped short of confirming the specific €100 reduction in electricity costs early next year.

Although denying any populist intent, he said “yes we are looking at some options . . . can we do something, particularly in relation to bills at the end of this year and at the start of next year.

“I can’t confirm some of the things that are being reported here today because they haven’t gone to Government yet,” he told Newstalk Radio on Friday.

Mr Donohoe said the current high levels of inflation in the economy are to be expected but will improve next year.

“I will concede that for the last months [inflatoin<DD>has ] has gone above what we would have expected,” he said.

“If you look at where we were, we had an economy that was closed for so long. Not just here in Ireland but across Europe, across the world with supply chains that weren’t working like they used to be able to work and at the same time governments were spending a huge amount money to help their people, to help their economies, get through the economic consequences of Covid.”

With regard to ongoing financial supports for Irish companies that may not survive the pandemic, Mr Donohoe said such a scenario was “awful to have to countenance”.

“Many of the firms that we are supporting here are small and medium [sized] firms that are domestic, that are the backbone of our economy,” he said.

“And I acknowledge when we will remove these supports, when we begin reducing them, it will be a moment of risk for many firms,” Mr Donohoe said.

“But surely what we need to do then is get ready for that moment of risk by continuing to support firms at exactly the point at which their demand for what they sell . . . has gone down for no reason that they are able to influence.”

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