herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Ministers tussle over spending proposals

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

MINISTERS have begun fighting for funding ahead of the Government's multi-billion euro capital spending plan.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's officials are understood to be keen to lengthen the plan beyond the current target of 2020 in a move that is being resisted by the Labour Party.

Fine Gael sources say a larger-scale plan will allow the Coalition to commit to a greater suite of projects in roads, transport, schools and housing before the General Election.

"Rolling out a five or six-year plan instead of the usual four years will give us greater flexibility to deliver on promises," a Government strategist said.

But Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin is adamant that the original plan, which runs from 2017 to 2020, falls in line with current fiscal rules and must be followed.

Anxiety

The emergence of any such plan that appears to favour departments under Fine Gael's control will cause anxiety for the Labour Party.

One Labour minister said he was concerned that Fine Gael will try to "outmuscle" the party again and present the capital spending plan as being "Blueshirt led".

It is believed that the wrangling between the two parties over the time frame of the capital spending plan was a factor in the decision to postpone the announcement until next month. The plan was originally due to be announced before the summer recess.

A senior source said Mr Howlin is coming under pressure from ministers seeking cash.

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