Burton: Rewards to be small scale and year by year

Tánaiste Joan Burton has warned it would be foolish to let the country’s savings fritter away and strongly indicated any reward for people who struggled through the recession will be on a small scale, year by year.

Burton: Rewards to be small scale and year by year

The Labour Party leader said any changes to taxes or take-home pay for workers would be implemented over a cycle of budgets and not just next year.

Speaking at the parliamentary party’s pre-Dáil think-in yesterday, she reflected on recent positive exchequer and employment figures but struck a note of caution.

“One of the things as a country we really have to be careful about is, having been through the sacrifices and burdens that people have taken on and got the country to a recovery point, it would be foolish to adopt policies that would just fritter away in any way the gains that we’ve made,” she said.

Boosting take-home pay for people on low and middle incomes could only be done over “a cycle of budgets”, the Social Protection minister advised.

She confirmed the Government was considering rewarding people to go back to work, under a new scheme to be announced in next month’s budget.

The back-to-work dividend would allow parents who take up low-paid work to retain welfare payments, known as qualified child increases, of almost €30 per week for every child.

Ms Burton said she wanted to provide an incentive for parents to go back to work, which was flagged in the Coalition’s pre-summer statement of priorities.

The party’s two-day mini-summit in Wexford involves TDs and senators focusing on the year ahead, including the budget, new portfolios for ministers, the upcoming two by-elections, and Labour’s future policies.

Tax changes for the budget, including reducing the universal social charge, were also being considered by the Government but might only be applied on a “small scale” and year by year, Ms Burton added.

TDs and senators held closed-door discussions yesterday and were briefed by Nama chairman Frank Daly and University College Dublin’s Dr Michelle Norris about affordable housing options.

A number of presentations were also made by ministers.

During her speech to members, Ms Burton flagged positive changes ahead in next month’s budget.

“The coming weeks will represent a hugely significant period in this country’s history, because we will cross a Rubicon.”

But she again cautioned against unrealistic expectations.

“To be clear, we won’t be able to do all things we or the public might want, and we won’t be able to dramatically boost household income in one fell swoop.”

Her comments come after Health Minister Leo Varadkar recently suggested the budget might only mean an extra “fiver or tenner” in people’s pay packets.

Ms Burton also attacked opposition parties.

Fianna Fáil had destroyed the country, she said, while Sinn Féin wanted a welfare economy, not a working one.

More in this section