Danish government announces winter inflation help

A new agreement on financial assistance for people struggling amid inflation was presented by the Danish government on Friday.

Danish government announces winter inflation help
Danish finance minister Nicolai Wammen and officials from other parties present a new winter inflation help package on February 10th. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Vulnerable elderly people are set to receive additional money under a new “inflation package” presented by the government on Friday, but critics say the deal could leave low-income families short of a vital subsidy which is set to expire.

Recipients of a benefit for which low-income elderly persons, ældrecheck, will receive an additional 5,000-kroner tax-free cash benefit in 2023 under the terms of the agreement.

Three opposition parties, the Red Green Alliance, the Conservatives and Liberal Alliance, do not back the plan and are not part of the agreement.

The deal secures 2.4 billion kroner of government spending to helping soften the impact of inflation on the Danish public. Some 1.1 billion kroner of that total is set aside for the additional elderly cheque.

“This is a helping hand. Not something that solves all problems but a remedy to help some people through a difficult time. And I’m incredibly pleased that so many parties are involved,” Finance Minister Nicolai Wammen told media on Friday.

The agreement also provides 300 million kroner for low-income families with children. Which families will benefit from the money and how is currently undecided and will be negotiated under the auspices of the Employment Ministry. Those talks will take place after next week’s winter break, Wammen said.

The Red Green Alliance on Thursday left talks over the agreement because it disagreed with the part related to low-income families.

The left-wing party said that it was unhappy that economically vulnerable families currently in receipt of an existing subsidy, known as børnetilskud, were not guaranteed to receive money from the 300-million-kroner fund after March 1st, when the current subsidy expires.

Wammen said on Friday that the spending plan for the 300 million kroner would not be finalised by March 1st.

“It won’t be possible to make a deal so this money can be paid out before March 1st. It will take longer. But the wish is to get the money out as quickly as possible,” he said.

The minister did not say whether families who lose the old subsidy on March 1st would receive the new inflation relief.

“We have a shared responsibility to agree on a deal as soon as possible so that vulnerable young families can see who will be eligible for the money,” he said.

Another opposition party, the Socialist People’s Party (SF) has agreed to vote for the deal but said it was critical of the part providing funding to families.

“Our criticism was and still is that the government has removed the increased subsidy which was necessary for the poorest young families before inflation took effect,” SF finance spokesperson Lisbeth Bech-Nielsen said.

But Bech-Nielsen also praised a part of the agreement that provides an additional 100 million kroner to provide activities and outings for children from vulnerable backgrounds, as well as to by essential items.

The outgoing subsidy, børnetilskud, was introduced in 2019 and is given to low-income families such as those receiving the lowest form of unemployment benefit, kontanthjælp.

A parliamentary majority for extending the subsidy no longer exists following last November’s election. It therefore expires on March 1st.

The subsidy provides between 563 and 717 kroner per child per month, depending on the benefits received by parents.

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Lawyers criticise Danish parliament for ‘special treatment’ of party leader

Two lawyers have accused parliament of double standards for deciding not to legally pursue Alex Vanopslagh, the leader of the Liberal Alliance party, after he was found to have breached rules relating to apartments provided to MPs.

Lawyers criticise Danish parliament for ‘special treatment’ of party leader

Parliament’s decision not to take Vanopslagh’s case to the courts suggests that the public and politicians are not equal before the law, according to two lawyers who spoke to broadcaster DR.

As an elected member of parliament, Liberal Alliance leader Vanopslagh was provided with a free apartment in Copenhagen and given parliamentary subsidies for “double household” (dobbelt husførelse) because he was registered as living at an address in Struer, West Jutland.

It later emerged he did not genuinely use the Struer address as his home and had thereby broken the rules. He later paid back the subsidies in full and returned the Copenhagen apartment.

“I’m not for one second in doubt that if this had been a municipal case, the municipality would have asked for the money back and reported him to the police,” lawyer Mads Pramming, a benefit fraud specialist, told broadcaster DR.

In 2019, parliament – including Liberal Alliance – voted for stricter rules on benefit fraud, including obliging municipalities to report certain types of cases to the police.

“It looks a bit funny that parliament is enacting strict control to prevent the public being paid money they are not entitled to, and giving municipalities an obligation to report it. And when it then comes to parliament itself, things are a lot less strict,” Pramming told DR.

Struer Municipality has ruled that Vanopslagh broke CPR (central person registration) rules by not living in Struer enough between 2020 and 2022 for it to be deemed his actual residence, as he claimed at the time.

Two left-wing parties, Red Green Alliance and Alternative, have called for the Præsidium – speaker’s council – in parliament to consider whether Vanopslagh should be prosecuted over the issue.

The speaker of parliament, Søren Gade, has told DR that the case will not be taken further. A previous case from 2015 has been cited as precedent for the decision.

A second lawyer, Michael Bjørn Hansen, called that stance “absurd” in comments to the broadcaster. Hansen also has expertise in benefit fraud cases.

“Based on some kind of objective consideration, this is certainly benefit fraud. Because he has cheated on some rules and received public benefits which he is not entitled to,” he said.

Equal status before the law “is not present here” unless parliament files a report with police, he argued.

“This is different to the demands parliament is making on municipalities,” he said.

The Præsidium is responsible for managing Denmark’s 179 lawmakers. Five members of parliament sit on the council, with the speaker being the senior member.

Vanopslagh has admitted to wrongdoing in the “double home” scandal and said his knowledge of the rules had been lacking.

“It’s my fault, I made a mistake. But other people make the judgement and say what I have to pay back,” he said earlier this week.

A number of legal experts previously told newspaper Dagbladet Information that the matter should be investigated by the police.

Vanopslagh received a total of around 75,000 kroner to which he was not entitled, according to DR.