Belfast Telegraph

Families up to 1,000 euro worse off

Families will be as much as 1,000 euro a year worse off under massive austerity cutbacks.

In the first half of an unprecedented two-day Budget announcement, the Government slashed child benefits, winter fuel, disability and back-to-school allowances.

Student fees were hiked up along with medical and school transport costs while a flat-rate property tax was introduced in the 1.4 billion euro package.

Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, warned there was no magic wand but claimed public support for the potentially crippling savings.

He said: "It provides the stability necessary to plan and work our way out of this crisis. It won't be easy, and we will not resolve our problems overnight. No government, whatever its numbers, wants to be the bearer of bad news. But our options are extremely limited. The public knows this. It is wary of those who offer simplistic options."

The hard-hitting cutbacks will be compounded tomorrow by a 2% VAT increase, fuel and motor tax hikes and new levies for employees holding property or stock investments.

A family of four can expect to suffer a 432 euro a year cut to their child benefit payments and soaring health insurance premiums as the state pulls out of private health subsidies - expected to force up insurance fees by about 500 euro a year.

The raft of other spending cutbacks - spread wide across allowances and Government departments - will take more than 1,000 euro a year out of average family budgets.

Mr Howlin claimed weekly dole payments had been saved from the cuts but then revealed part-time workers will see their benefits targeted, ultimately falling by a fifth. Employers did not get away unscathed as a special redundancy rebate has been drastically reduced from 60% to 15%.

Fianna Fail spokesman Sean Fleming said: "There are a number of decisions that you have announced here that are simply unfair and unpalatable - you're hitting the old by hitting fuel allowance, you're hitting the young by hitting child benefit."

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