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Financial Resolutions 2018

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Budget Statement 2018

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Financial Resolutions 2018\Budget Statement 2018

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Budget Statement 2018

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Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett

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Snippet Contents:

This is a budget of miserable crumbs which will do nothing to solve the most urgent social crises we face in this country - the disaster of housing and homelessness and the chaos in our public health system. This budget will do absolutely nothing to deal with the gaping, growing, obscene inequalities in the distribution of wealth and income in our society. One of the favourite phrases of the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, in recent days has been "prudence". He regularly tells us that it is very important to be prudent. I feel like quoting the Beatles song of a similar title to him: "Dear Prudence open up your eyes." This budget has not opened up its eyes. It has not acknowledged or done anything to deal with the most serious issues facing the people who are suffering most and who most need the Government's help.
The most obvious example of this is the housing crisis. I do not know where to begin in expressing my anger and frustration at this budget when it comes to dealing with the housing and homelessness crisis. It simply beggars belief that in this budget there is only provision for 3,800 directly constructed council and approved housing body houses next year to deal with the scale of the crisis we now face. Some 3,800 houses are all that this Government can deliver next year for the 100,000 families on the housing list and the 8,000 people who are in emergency accommodation. It is just unbelievable. That announcement is nothing new. We heard that 3,800 figure after the so-called housing summit approximately a month ago. There was no additional funding beyond what was already announced. As was already pointed out by a number of speakers, the total amount of social and affordable housing, if refurbishments are included, is exactly the same as the figure in the Minister, Deputy Coveney's Rebuilding Ireland plan, which we all know has failed disastrously. There is no serious commitment to significantly increasing the amount of council housing directly provided to solve the crisis.
Instead an additional €150 million will go to housing assistance payments, HAPs. This is more money going into the pockets of private landlords. We also see a commitment to further expand this mad failed scheme to a further 80,000 to 90,000 households over the next three or four years so that, by 2021, we will be pouring €800 million to €1 billion into the pockets of private landlords. We will pay that money every year instead of putting it towards providing and building council houses for those who need them. Despite all the rhetoric about how the Minister wants to return to social housing, in actuality the central pillar of the plan to deal with this catastrophic housing crisis is to pour money into the pockets of private landlords. This is something which has failed and which has robbed the local authorities of the money they need, and should have, to build council houses.
There is also the matter of the local infrastructure housing activation fund, LIHAF, which is another scandal in the making. An additional €75 million of a subsidy will go to private developers, purportedly with the aim of getting back affordable housing. This is incredible. It is bad enough that the Minister came up with this scheme last year and allocated tens of millions to give to private developers, but the fact that he has expanded it this year really beggars belief because in the interim the developers have made it clear that they will not give us affordable housing for the subsidies they are to be given. In my area, Hines, the private developer to which NAMA sold the Cherrywood site, has said that it wants €300,000 to €400,000 or more for affordable houses. How will people afford those? The proportion of the overall development which will be made up of these unaffordable affordable houses will be miserable in any event. It could be as low as 1%, yet the Minister is going to give more money to this scheme. Is the Minister stark raving mad or is he just addicted to subsidising his private developer friends?
As if LIHAF and the HAPs were not bad enough, the Minister has come up with a new scheme to subsidise the private developers, which will be called home building finance Ireland. This is another agency with a convenient acronym, HBFI, which the Minister announced so proudly earlier. It will co-operate with NAMA to give cheap money to private developers who cannot get it off the banks which we bailed out, because those banks are only worried about the bottom line. Now that the banks which we bailed out will not lend money to the private developers, we the people will give them cheap loans so that they can build housing on the 800 different sites of public land which local authorities will hand over to them.