Lenihan looking for further savings cuts

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has imposed a four-week deadline on each of his Cabinet colleagues to come up with cutbacks in their departments.

It is part of Minister Lenihan's plan to slash €3bn in December's budget. With tax hikes limited the cuts will have to come from current and capital spending.

At yesterday's Cabinet meeting Taoiseach Brian Cowen told his colleagues he wants them to come and offer up cutbacks in the next four weeks.

The Finance Minister is expected to have a face to face meeting with each other Minister by the end of June where each and every area will be examined.

The issue of public sector pay could come back on the agenda too, if as expected unions begin to return no votes on the proposed Croke Park Agreement.

Meanwhile the Finance Minister's chief advisor has said Ireland is in the "ultimate" phase in the resolution of its financial crisis.

Dr Alan Ahearne, who has been seconded to the Department of Finance from his post at NUI Galway, said he expects the economy to return to growth sooner than the predicted point of the second half of this year.

He is also predicting a return to job growth in 2011.

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