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Budget Statement 2013

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Snippet Contents:

Yes. The Minister, Deputy Quinn, apologised for the delays but I think he was also apologising for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform because this is a reform issue. Some 66,000 people applied for third-level grants but, as of today, half of them have not yet been approved. Most TDs are now coming across a new phenomenon in their constituencies. I have had numerous examples of where people were informed in writing that they qualified for a 100% grant, only to be told later that the grant had been reduced by 50% or not approved at all. When I followed that up by tabling parliamentary questions I was told that due to the volume of cases, errors inevitably occur. People are having to leave third-level institutions due to those administrative errors. They took up college places on the basis of letters they received - I have copies of those letters - yet subsequently letters were issued which stated something different. It affects students from low-income families who should be eligible for such grants.
I wish to comment on the Department of Children and Youth Affairs because we have had the children's referendum. Apart from cutting child benefit, the Government is also cutting funding to various youth programmes to save €5 million. In addition, the subvention rates towards child care costs and places are also being cut by €3.7 million. Expenditure for the schools completion programme is being cut, as is money for the national children's strategy and the early intervention programme. I am shocked that a few weeks after the children's referendum the Government is cutting the Department of Children and Youth Affairs budget for 2013 and child benefit on top of that.
The Minister could have assisted job growth in the economy by ensuring that money earmarked and passed by this House for capital expenditure on publicly funded projects was used for that purpose in 2012. We now see a massive underspend of €400 million, however. At the end of October, he told us that would not happen when the underspend was €336 million. A month later, the figure had reached €405 million. Every one of the jobs that is not proceeding represents a loss of employment. We estimate that there are 4,000 fewer people at work today because the Minister did not spend the €405 million on projects for which he received funding. Those 4,000 people are suffering due to the ineptitude of various Government Departments in not getting the jobs done.
I appeal to the Minister concerning the €3 billion worth of publicly funded contracts that are due to happen next year. We on this side of the House will do everything to assist him, but will he please ensure the Construction Contracts Bill goes ahead as a matter of priority? So many subcontractors and their direct employees are not being paid for their labour, and every TD is experiencing this in constituency work. The main contractor is being paid by the line Department or the contracting agency on behalf of the State, yet subcontractors and their direct employees have not been paid. That is because of the tendering process and the lack of proper mechanisms to ensure that competent and financially strong contractors would get these jobs in the first place. It is a scandal that people who work cannot get paid. This House is unanimous on that issue. I want to get this legislation over the line because it has been months since we debated it on Second Stage.
The budget contains a number of taxation measures, including the property tax which my colleague Deputy Michael McGrath has outlined in detail, that are not necessary at this time. They should not proceed now. There are a number of very unfair cuts right across the areas of health, social welfare, education and others, that should not happen. They are falling disproportionately on the poor because the Government has decided to make most of the adjustments in expenditure cuts, rather than on people who could pay more. Many of the cuts are unfair and we oppose them. We will be trenchantly opposing this budget due to its unfairness concerning families and the ordinary people of Ireland generally.