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Budget Statement 2019

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Snippet Contents:

That is it exactly. It is for votes, or the lack of votes. When it comes to education, it is very disappointing. The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, has not got his slice of the pie, for whatever reason. He needs to come in and explain it. There is only an additional €190 million in funding, or less than 1% of the budget for education. When we strip out the increases for demographics, pay agreements and the already-announced capital plan, there is only an extra €119 million in resources for education. Across a budget of €10.7 billion, that is less than a 1% increase. That completely and utterly makes a mockery of the Minister's claims of a 6.7% increase in funding. Extra money was already allocated to hire more teachers and support staff to cover a growing population. It is called demographics. People watching are being misled if they believe there is a 6.7% increase. In reality, it is less than 1%.
There is no additional funding to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio at primary or secondary level, as my party proposed in our budget submissions. There is also no extra funding to genuinely deliver a free school books scheme. That would have cost €40 million. The Government is also not listening when it comes to higher level. It has not addressed the issue of student grants or reduced the student contribution in any way. We have a crisis in our primary schools. I have raised it here. In all of the schools where there are working principals across the country, it is unsustainable for them to work five days a week and also to ensure that 43 circulars, as was the number last year, were implemented. Those principals deserve to have one day of administration and they deserve to have that as part of this budget. I see €1 million is being allocated for "leadership". I hope that goes some way to addressing working principals because, otherwise I guarantee we will see them outside of the gates. On spending on capital in education, I have a serious concern about the 95 large scale projects being put forward. The Minister, through a sleight of hand, released plans for new schools a year or so ago. These were welcomed. The allocations given by Deputy Jan O'Sullivan a number of years ago, however, have in many cases not commenced yet. Where are they? I cite Coláiste Phobal in Roscrea as an example, which is probably the largest school in my county.
Turning to rural Ireland, we have the €53 million for the town renewal scheme. That is welcome but it is tokenistic toward rural Ireland if we divide it out. To be honest, this is a type of a makey-uppy Department. It is not going to have the impact in rural areas that it should have because it does not have direct budgetary lines to be able to do that. We also need to have considered and targeted grants and tax measures to ensure we have viable businesses and communities in rural areas. When it comes to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, the Minister, Deputy Ross, who is absent without leave, there is €40 million for new roads and pavements across the country. Averaging that out across local authorities, it is pretty paltry given the cost of roads and pavement repairs. Perhaps we need to improve a few of these pavements because we will be pounding them again in a few weeks, I presume. It is paltry. Anyone who goes running around saying this money is going to solve issue of the rural roads, that are in the Minister's constituency and mine, is only deceiving people.
On travel behaviour, I have also spoken about Irish Rail. We have money for greenways in the measures for smarter travel. I acknowledge that. It is not enough. Measures to deal with the issues I spoke about concerning climate change and carbon are simply not there to the level required. There is lost connectivity in respect of regional airports. It is not getting a fair bang for the buck in this budget.
I will speak briefly about VAT on tourism and the change to 13.5%. I thought there would be some commensurate measures in this budget to help with the small, family-owned restaurants and businesses that are going to be negatively affected in rural areas in west Limerick, north Tipperary, Wexford, Galway, Sligo and everywhere else. How are we going to ensure that these remain viable with this sudden change? What has the Government done or what is it proposing to do to ensure that happens? The answer is nothing.