This time two years ago, we were in the midst of a general election. The Taoiseach will recall the election was brought about by the crisis in health. It was an election in which workers and families, frustrated and fed up with repeated failures of successive Governments in housing and healthcare, voted for change in huge numbers. Now, two years on and in the cold light of day, people see that these crises in housing and health have only gotten worse. We have record rents, soaring house prices and 1 million people on treatment waiting lists, and if that was not enough, households struggle to keep up with the cost of living that is out of control.
People are under huge pressure as they are hammered by non-stop price hikes in every area. The living standard of workers and families is squeezed by the highest rate of inflation in 20 years and a lack of Government action. For far too many people, being ourselves again means the stress and struggle of trying to keep up with soaring costs while wages stay the same. The yearly cost of putting food on the table is to go up by nearly €800. The cost of running a car is to go up by an average of €500. Record rents are up by 8.1%. Families are paying the equivalent of a second mortgage in childcare costs. The cost of lighting and heating a home is up a massive 53%. It is never ending. All of this adds up to a cost of living that is unbearable. The Government must urgently deliver a plan that gets these costs down, but this urgency is sorely absent.
People have been hit with 35 energy price hikes in the past year and the Government has been far too slow to react. The €100 credit for energy bills comes very late. The Government did not deal with this in the budget. It refused to sit on this matter in December and now the €100 credit will come into force only in March or April. Costs are now so far out of control that this will not be a game changer for families paying thousands just to light and heat their homes. It should be borne in mind that families pay these off-the-wall bills today and the benefit of the €100 will likely be cancelled out as costs increase further. Workers and families stretch themselves to make it to the end of the week and they deserve better than this slack response from Government. They want they need real action.
Tá an costas maireachtála imithe ó smacht. Tá daoine cráite mar gheall ar an ardú mór ar phraghsanna atá imithe ó smacht. Tá sé thar am ag an Rialtas gníomh a dhéanamh agus faoiseamh a thabhairt do dhaoine. Does the Taoiseach accept that we need great urgency in dealing with this cost-of-living crisis?
Does the Taoiseach accept that there needs to be a step change in the Government's approach? Has he engaged with the Commission for Regulation of Utilities on this worsening crisis? Has he directed the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, to get the heads of energy companies around the table to devise solutions for hard-pressed customers? Without Government action, things will get worse for families that are just keeping their heads above water. This is a vicious cycle. It is never-ending. It is no way for our people to live or build a future. The Taoiseach's lack of urgency cannot continue. It is now time for Government to do its job and protect workers and families from being fleeced.