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Leo Varadkar says he doesn’t want people worrying about bills over Christmas

Two relief measures, one before Christmas and one in the New Year would be aimed at taking the pressure off hard-pressed homeowners around the festive season

Leo Varadkar

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

Leo Varadkar has said he wouldn’t want people in December worrying about the January bill as he suggested that new energy credits may be on the way.

The two relief measures, one before Christmas and one in the New Year would be aimed at taking the pressure off hard-pressed homeowners around the festive season.

The Tánaiste made the comments as he was speaking at the Fine Gael party think-in in Kilkenny this morning,

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan already confirmed this week that householders will receive another energy credit before the end of the year.

While a €200 electricity credit was applied to each household in In April, a as part of measures announced to help people with the rising cost-of-living, it is expected the energy credits this time around will be substantially more.

“One thing I’m very conscious of is that utility bills land every few months. So it won’t be enough, in my view, just to help people before Christmas,” Mr Varadkar said.

“People will need help after Christmas as well, perhaps throughout next year, and we need to bear in mind that’s a possibility.

“It would seem to me to make no sense to help people with their bills before Christmas and then say in the new year, in the spring, next winter, if things are just as bad, ‘well, now you’re on your own’. Like that doesn’t stand to reason for me.”

He told the “I think everyone knows the way utility bills work, they work in a two-month cycle. There’s an October/ November bill and there’s a December/January bill. So we need to be conscious of the fact that if we help people with the October/November bill, we can’t leave them with no help at all for the December/January bill,” he said.

“I think it would make sense to give people visibility into the new year, maybe not for the entirety of 2023. But you know, I wouldn’t want people in December worrying about the January bill,” said Varadkar.

He added: “What I’m saying is that the announcements on budget day aren’t the final word on this.”

Speaking about the level of spending in this year’s budget, Varadkar said it would be a “really bad strategy” to spend all the surplus, stating that the Government should “leave something in the tank”.

“We don’t want to end up with a situation next spring or even next winter where things are continuing to get worse and we have to go to the bond markets at a time of high interest rates for money. So we need to make sure that the response from Government is sufficient and scale to restore people’s confidence that their living standards aren’t going to fall precipitously.

“But also, we need to make sure that we prepare for the possibility that this could go on for quite some time. It could get worse before it gets better,” said Varadkar.

A cap on energy prices cannot be entirely ruled out, Varadkar told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland earlier today.

Varadkar said the UK energy price cap would ultimately be paid for by the taxpayer while EU proposals would take money from the energy companies to support householders.

He told reporters in Kilkenny today that the Irish Government has to have regard to what’s done in other countries.

“What’s done in the UK impacts on us,” he said, stating that he did not want to see a scenario where businesses north and south of the border are competing while Northern Ireland has a price cap, but there is none in Ireland.

The Government is supporting the EU proposal that windfall revenues should be recycled, he said.

He added that how Europe calculated the electricity price “made sense in the past – it doesn’t make sense anymore”.

“It’s all based on the price of gas. So even when gas prices are very high, the wind operators and the solar operators get the higher price. And that doesn’t make any sense.

“The proposal that he’s working on and being worked on at the European level, is we’ll recycle some of those windfall gains into price reductions for consumers,” he said.

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