Budget debates

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St Vincent de Paul and fuel poverty; poverty impact of budget

Fuel poverty and the payment by the Society of St Vincent de Paul of €10m for people for their energy bills were raised at question time by Michael Moynihan (FF, Cork NW)  (Dail Eireann, 24th October 2013, 698-700).  The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, told him that this was a concern to him and the work of the Society in supporting those in debt or who had difficulty paying bills was to be applauded – but it did not explain how it arrived at that figure nor did his advice support that figure.  Ireland was dependent on international energy prices and at a time when British energy companies had recently increased their prices, he welcomed the decisions of Electric Ireland and Bord Gais not to do so.  The government’s principal approach was the affordable energy strategy (2011) with 48 actions for implementations and €21m funding this year.  Michael Moynihan referred to Bord Gais trying to get rid of  meter customers and rely on the Society and others to try meet their bills. Was the Commission for Energy Regulation doing its job properly in allowing increases?  ‘We need to face this down because there is a crisis’.


The minister, Pat Rabbitte, said he would be concerned if this was correct about meters and asked for more precise information.  These were supposed to prevent disconnection.  They were trying to encourage customers at risk of fuel poverty to have meters installed.  The welcome freeze on prices here was welcome but did not mean that people were not under real pressure.  The regulator had pointed out the significant costs involved in maintaining the energy network – but the resorting of people to the Society of St Vincent de Paul to pay bills was a matter of serious concern to him.


The Minister for Social Protection was questioned on the same issue (Dail Eireann, Debates, 17th October 2013, 684-5).  The minister, Joan Burton, told the Dail that she was very much aware of the issues raised by the Society and gave an account of government measures to respond, such as the Better Energy Warmer Homes Scheme and the provision of fuel allowances.  They had been protected in the most recent budget, but she pointed out that they were not expected to meet all fuel costs in full.


Meantime, asked about the poverty impact of the budget, the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, told the Dail that  her department was preparing an analysis of the poverty and distributive impact of the 2014 budget  and would use a tax-welfare simulation model developed by the Economic and Social Research Institute (Dail Eireann, Debates, 17th October 2013, 661-2).  She would examine the analysis when finalized and it would be published in due course.   In a separate reply, she told Aengus O Snodaigh (SF, Dublin SC) that analysis of the 2013 budget found that it led to no significant change to the risk of poverty rate (Dail Eireann, Debates, 17th October 2013, 698-9). 

> See also: Dail Eireann, Debates, 17th October 2013, 679-680; 683-4; 684-5; 692; 698-9

> Pensioner poverty: Dail Eireann, Debates, 17th October 2013, 706-7; Social Justice Ireland A universal pension for Ireland, Dail Eireann, Debates, 17th October 2013, 711-712.

> Poverty impact assessments and rents: Dail Eireann, Debates, 23rd October 2013, 572.

> €7m Better Energy Communities scheme, with details of projects supported:  Dail Eireann, Debates, 24th October 2014,  797-801.