The Taoiseach is to meet the Fine Gael and Labour leaders tomorrow evening to discuss the proposed four-year economic plans.

Brian Cowen's discussions with Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore follow briefings given to Fine Gael and Labour by the Department of Finance yesterday.

Mr Cowen said he was anxious that the views of the Opposition be reflected in the four-year plan.

He confirmed that a significant correction to the national finances was now required.

However, he would not confirm suggestions that it would amount to as much as €15bn over the period.

Mr Cowen also indicated that there could be a Dáil debate on the economy next week.

The Taoiseach has told the Dáil that the budgetary framework is broadly in line with projections made last year.

He said the contraction had stabilised and the Government was focusing on getting the economy back to growth.

Mr Cowen was responding to Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore, who commented on figures seen by their financial spokespersons yesterday.

Mr Kenny called for an independent verification process of figures from the department and for discussions on the figures to take place in the Dáil.

Mr Gilmore said every projection made by the Government had been wrong and that its credibility was gone.

He said the Government wanted the Opposition to solve the problem, for the people to pay for it and for it to stay in power.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has ruled out meetings between officials from the European Commission and the Opposition finance spokespeople on budget preparations.

Mr Cowen said it was not appropriate to have others substituting the role of the Department of Finance officials.

The Taoiseach suggested that a briefing from the Finance Commissioner at a political level might be possible to discuss broad issues with the leaders of the Opposition.

Adjustment period must be extended - Begg

Irish Congress of Trade Unions General Secretary David Begg has said the Government must extend the timeframe for the budgetary adjustment or risk doing permanent damage to Ireland's economy.

In a speech in Dublin last night, Mr Begg said the target of achieving a budget deficit of 3% by 2014 was entirely arbitrary.

He argued that extending the period of adjustment until 2017 was far more realistic and that the key to cutting the deficit was not austerity, but growth and job creation.

'Cuts should start with political class'

Independent Senator Eoghan Harris has told the Seanad that the brunt of any cuts must be borne by those who can best take them.

Speaking during the Order of Business, Senator Harris said that meant starting with the political class.

He said there were too many Government ministers from the Taoiseach down being paid far too much, with too many ministerial pensions.

He also said there were too many 'fat cat' civil servants.