THE GOVERNMENT HAS said that the extent of possible spending cuts revealed by a minister in the Dáil last week are not indicative of decisions already made about the forthcoming budget.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter made comments in an exchange with members of the opposition, in which he appeared to reveal the scale of planned public spending cuts, saying that his department would be looking to cut 15.7 per cent, or €340 million, in his department over the next three years.
The Sunday Times reports today that, if applied across all departments, this would lead to spending cuts of €2.5billion which would be an upward revision of the previously touted figure of €2.1 billion.
A government spokesperson has told TheJournal.ie that Shatter’s comments are not indicative of decisions about cuts which had already been made, but rather that the minister was using figures from a spending review produced by his own department at the request of the Department of Public Expenditure.
As reported in August, each department has been asked to look at areas where they can find savings of between 15 and 20 per cent. The spokesperson said today that when these plans have been assessed by the government, it can then pick from a wide range of savings options.
The spokesperson also conceded however that recent reports of an increased cuts target in the next budget cannot be dismissed.
Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte warned a few weeks ago that there was an “extremely painful” budget on the way as the government struggles to find €3.6 billion in savings – a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said that the government is close to publishing the deficit reduction plans, which will outline cuts and tax increases which are on the way in the coming years.