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Budget Statement 2019

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Snippet Contents:

-----and not to the monocultural industrial model, which is damaging the environment. The extra money is welcome but a radical change in policy is needed.
A key area where the Government could do something to address emissions is public transport but there is nothing radical or changing in the budget. Even with the small bit of additional funding, there will be significantly fewer subsidies going into the bus system than there were in 2008 when the cuts started. The BusConnects plan contains no serious investment in additional bus capacity, which means robbing Peter to pay Paul and taking buses out of one area to put them on more profitable routes in another area without increasing the capacity of the bus service. It contains nothing radical to encourage people to get out of their cars. In fact, more people will have to get into their cars if the BusConnects plan goes ahead because certain areas, particularly those with elderly and less mobile people, will lose public service routes. People in my area will have to get into cars to go to St. Vincent's hospital because there will be no direct route. They will have to get two buses and then walk a hell of a lot further than they would have had with the direct bus. They will have to get into cars. What the Government could have done, which is what we proposed and what has been done in other countries such as Estonia, is make public transport free. It would cost €580 million but, by God, it would be a good investment. It would cut CO2 emissions. If we also increased public transport subsidies to EU levels and increased the bus fleet by approximately 500 or, even better, by approximately 1,000 buses, then we would have a public transport system that people would use and it would make a difference to congestion and CO2 emissions.
Social welfare and dealing with the most vulnerable in our society is a dismal picture. There is a small increase in the back to school allowance but it is still less than it was in 2008. Ten years on, we are still giving less to poor, vulnerable and less well-off families, who are crucified by the cost of sending children back to school at this time of the year. The back to school allowance was always inadequate but people are still being given less than they received in 2008 when all the cuts started. With regard to teenage poverty, nothing has been done about the apartheid under 26 half-rate for young jobseekers. There have been small increases in the qualified child allowances but the Vincentians, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and other groups state it is not nearly enough to deal with child poverty or to cover the cost for lower income families of bringing up children. Child benefit is still below 2008 levels by a significant margin. The amount for one child is still €26 less than it was in 2008, the amount for two children is still €52 less than it was in 2008 while the amount for three children is €115 less than it was in 2008. The income disregard for single parents, who are one of the most disadvantaged groups in society, is still less than it was when it was introduced 21 years ago in 1997. There is still no restoration in terms of the cuts visited on loan parents.
We could state the catalogue of the budget's failures to address the serious issues of the housing crisis, a crumbling health service, galloping climate change, a crisis in education and inequality and deprivation in our society might be forgivable if there was no money to address it and there was no money to go around.