REPORTS that the government is considering a €10 weekly cut to the old age pension are “without foundation”, according to Minister of State Jan O’Sullivan.
With the 2014 budget having been brought forward to October, kite-flying within government and the coalition parties appeared to have started earlier than usual, said the Limerick TD.
Cabinet sources were quoted in the Sunday Independent at the weekend that a cut of €10 per week in the state pension could be considered as part of the plan to find the €3.1 billion in savings set out by the troika. The reports have drawn an angry reaction from age advocacy groups and from opposition parties with Fianna Fail’s Willie O’Dea warning government to “prepare for war” if the old age pension is cut.
But Minister O’Sullivan - who sits at cabinet meetings without having a vote - said Labour remained committed to its promise not to cut the benefit.
“As far as I can see, this seems to be totally without foundation. We have no intention of cutting any basic social welfare payment, including the pension,” she said.
“Unfortunately, we seem to be getting this every year in the run-up to a budget but this has not come from any proposal or discussion we have had,” Minister O’Sullivan added.
“We are still facing a significant challenge in the amount that will be available to us for public services and this will have to be addressed through some elements of cuts in expenditure and also some elements of taxation. Those decisions still have to be made. But we have said that we would not reduce the core social welfare rates and the old age pension is included among them.”
Sinn Fein’s Cllr Maurice Quinlivan, meanwhile, has accused members of the government of scaring pensioners through media leaks.
“The recent announcement that Bord Gais are looking for a 7% increase in prices, the introduction of a local property tax which took no consideration of ability to pay and the prospect of heavy water charges being introduced next year leave many older people in despair as to how they will manage their affairs and meet their bills,” he said.