Cash concerns | 

Cost-of-living rise overtakes housing crisis as main worry for Irish people

Meanwhile, Covid (9pc) has tumbled 18 points in the list of concerns, even though a majority (59pc) do not believe the pandemic is over.

Empty purse

Jody Corcoran and Hugh O'Connell

The cost of living has soared to become the public’s number one concern for the Government, according to the latest Sunday Independent/Ireland Thinks opinion poll.

A fortnight after most Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, a clear majority say the cost of living (56pc), up 28 points in a month, and housing (55pc), up 11 points, are now the two most important issues facing the Government.

Meanwhile, Covid (9pc) has tumbled 18 points in the list of concerns, even though a majority (59pc) do not believe the pandemic is over.

And more people want the Government to postpone slated carbon tax increases than any other single measure to help curb inflation.

Carbon tax increases on fuels are due to kick in this May, but Sinn Féin has proposed delaying the tax as price increases hit households.

Also in today’s poll, Sinn Féin 32pc (-1) retains its strong lead over Fine Gael at 23pc (no change) and Fianna Fáil 17pc (-2), ahead of the Social Democrats on 5pc (+1), Greens 4pc (+1), Labour 3pc (-1), Solidarity-PBP 3pc (nc), Aontú 3 (+1) and Independents/Others 9pc (nc).

The Sunday Independent can also reveal that within weeks, households will be able to apply for a new house retrofitting grant that covers 80pc of the cost of insulating their homes in a move that could save €400 on annual heating bills.

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan is expected to announce a series of major energy efficiency schemes this week aimed at helping to tackle the cost of living and reduce carbon emissions.

The grants will be made available before the end of this month, it is understood, in a move the Government expects to generate extremely high demand from the public.

The Government anticipates that many applicants who apply will be able to have the work completed in time for next winter.

However, today’s poll reveals that the cost of living, mostly related to recent increased energy prices, is a more urgent priority .

Asked how concerned they were about the cost of living, three-quarters (74pc) were very concerned, up 14 points since a comparative poll last November, while 25pc were concerned.

The Government said last week it would be introducing new measures over and above those in the last Budget to help tackle rapidly increasing inflation.

I n our poll, 32pc backed postponing carbon tax increases, 23pc wanted an income tax cut, 16pc said extend the €113 one-off credit to subsidise electricity bills, 14pc preferred increasing the fuel allowance and 7pc said cut motor tax, while 8pc said none of these measures.

It is estimated that about half of all homes in the country need upgraded insulation in their attic.

The cost of insulating an attic and insulating cavity walls, which are common in homes outside Dublin, typically ranges between €1,500 and €2,000 each.

The 80pc grant aid will reduce this cost to a payback of one to two years and is expected to reduce a family home’s heating bills by 25pc each year, or between €400 and €500.

It is one part of the Government’s emerging plan to tackle the cost of living along, with increasing the €113.50 energy tax credit to as much as €200 and extending the fuel allowance season also on the table.

Ministers are also pushing for a change in tax rules to allow employers to give employees a tax-free bonus of up to €1,000.

The scope of a cost-of-living package is still being debated by the Government, with some ministers concerned that a major spending spree would only serve to fuel inflation further.

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