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Financial Resolution No. 2: General (Resumed)

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Snippet Contents:

I have said from the outset of my leadership of the Labour Party that we will give credit to and support the implementation of any measures in this House that are positive and progressive. I also made it clear that we will not support measures we regard as negative or backward moving, which is why we will not support this budget. The budget in the round cannot be regarded as having achieved the improvements in public services and living standards to our people that could have been afforded this year.
Notwithstanding the Supplementary Estimates, which the Government denied could or would happen this year, of which we got confirmation yesterday, the fiscal space was limited this year. We know that. However, even within that limited fiscal space, choices were possible. We in the Labour Party argue that the wrong choices were made. In the first instance, it is because of Fine Gael's insistence on the abolition of the universal social charge. The tax cuts announced yesterday amount to less than €2 a week for those on €20,000 and €3.25 a week for those earning median income. It is a tokenistic sum of money. It is therefore hardly a surprise, as other Deputies have pointed out, that workers are not rejoicing in the streets.
To give that sum of money to so many, however, demands a big chunk of fiscal space, and the opportunity cost of that decision is the real tragedy of the budget. With that money, the Government could really have made a difference for some. By deciding to press ahead with universal social charge cuts, even when funding was so limited, the Government was unable to fund important other areas. One area where this budget is particularly lacking is in meaningful support to those in low paid work.
I was astonished to hear the Tánaiste on the radio this morning declaring that the budget published yesterday is making work worthwhile. The reality is truly different. For those on the minimum wage, yesterday saw a miserly increase of 10 cent an hour in their pay. If estimated inflation of 1.5% becomes a reality next year, an increase of 15 cent would have been needed just to stand still. Therefore, in real terms, there is nothing in it for those who go out to work on low pay. I spoke to a colleague this morning who had been talking to a colleague of his in the security business who is working on the minimum wage. There is nothing in it for him. He is going backwards.
To make matters worse, the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, did not include any increase to the thresholds for family income supplement, so a low income household will see a reduction in State support. To give a concrete example, take one-parent households where the parent is in full-time work on the minimum wage and has one child. Before yesterday, they had an income of €366 per week and received a further €87 a week in family income supplement. In total, those people working on the minimum wage were taking home €453 a week. Yesterday's pittance of an increase to the minimum wage would see their weekly income rise to €370 per week, but their family income supplement will fall to €84.60 a week. In total, therefore, they will now take home €454.60 a week. After the budget, those households are better off by the princely sum of €1.60 a week, which will be more than wiped out by inflation.
I do not know if the Taoiseach has bought a litre of milk recently-----