Salvini irks Conte with budget talks

PM says he decides timetable, ministers must be involved

(ANSA) - Rome, July 15 - Interior Minister Matteo Salvini told the big three trade unions and employers' groups Monday that the government wanted to define next year's budget bill by August and was keen to get their input, irking Premier Giuseppe Conte who said he would decide the format and timetable of any budget talks.
    "We want the budget to be brought forward a lot, we want to define its (main) points between July and August and we want to accept your suggestions," he told CGIL, CISL and UIL and employers including Confindustria, Confartigianato, Confedilizia, Legacoop, Confcooperative and Ania, as well as Italiuan Bankign Association ABI Salvini also said Monday's talks would be the start of a series of encounters with the so-called 'social partners'.
    "It's the start of a process," he said, while stressing "we don't want to stand in for the premier".
    He announced a new round of talks within a fortnight, or in any case before the end of the summer, union and employer sources said.
    The government wants to frame a budget that will stick to EU rules while finding the cash to pass a 15% flat tax.
    At the meeting with unions and employers, League economic pointman Armando Siri said the flat tax would benefit 20 million households and 40 million taxpayers.
    Premier Conte said Salvini had committed an "institutional foul" by discussing the budget issues with unions and employers and allegedly flouting accepted practice.
    "The budget is done here (at the cabinet office), by the economy minister and all the other ministers concerned and it is not done elsewhere, it is not done today," said Conte.
    "The timetable, I am at pains to point out, is decided by the premier's office, having heard the ministers, starting with the economy minister.
    "The timetable is not decided by others".
    As for the presence of Siri, who stepped down as economy undersecretary amid a probe into alleged corruption by a Sicilian wind farm king linked to Cosa Nostra's No 1 fugitive, Conte said "if it was a party summit it is OK, but if it was a government summit, it's not Ok".