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Budget Statement 2013

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Snippet Contents:

I look forward to making a contribution on detailed aspects of the budget. I want to highlight issues that will affect the majority of ordinary families and people. This budget effectively tightens and squeezes the majority of families. Despite promises that this would be a fair budget, it is anything but. It follows the pattern of last year. Fine Gael defended its constituency of high earners while Labour capitulated on its so-called core values. Contrary to grandiose claims, this is not a radical or reforming Government, rather it is a complacent one. The Minister for Social Protection presides over a €685 million overspend, while the Minister for Health must look for another €360 million this week. Everything this Government does is dictated by political expediency, as demonstrated by the unseemly row and horse trading between Fine Gael and Labour Ministers in the run up to the announcement today.
Over the past two years and during the previous election, commitments were given to the people which today are being broken. Put simply, this is a U-turn budget from a U-turn Government. In every area from third level fees to child benefit to class sizes to carers' payments to employees' PRSI to property tax, Government parties have shown they are willing to say anything to get elected until they are safely ensconced in their offices when they cast those promises aside. We are witnessing a Government that is obsessed with style over substance. Last month, the people voted in a referendum to enshrine children's rights in the Constitution. Today, the Government is cutting child benefit. That is its answer to the people who voted in the referendum. It is also cutting the overall budget for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs by an additional €16 million. That is happening a few weeks after the people at the Government's request enshrined the rights of children in the Constitution. The response of this Government is to cut child benefit and funding for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.
Labour has spoken out against the bank guarantee on many occasions in the past. Despite this, last week, every Labour Deputy voted to renew that for a further 12 months. The Government claims it wants to protect the most vulnerable, but last year, it introduced a budget that was unfair and this budget is the same. The test of fairness is how one goes about achieving the adjustment of €3.5 billion. This side of the House accepts this figure must be achieved, but the test of fairness is how one goes about it. The Government has discretion as to how to apportion the split between additional taxation and expenditure cuts. We believe fairness dictates a 50-50 split between tax increases and expenditure reductions. Once the decision was made by the Government to load the burden of the €3.5 billion on expenditure cuts, it was inevitable that this budget would hit the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. Fairness went out the window in the interests of political expediency.
I will address specific measures in the budget and will inevitably concentrate on issues that affect families, children and parents. The cut in child benefit can only be described as an anti-family measure. Today's €10 reduction in child benefit, taken in conjunction with last year's reduction, will take €200 million out of families' incomes. The reduction makes a mockery of Labour's red line approach on child benefit about which we have heard before. Child benefit is a core payment to 600,000 families that helps sustain the health, wealth and well-being of 1.5 million children. Child benefit is a universal payment that provides vital income support for families in meeting the costs of rearing children, especially during a time of unemployment and economic hardship. In October, the Minister for Social Protection told us she would only consider cutting child benefit when we were able to offer Scandinavian levels of child care.