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Financial Resolution No. 5: General (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 893 No. 1

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Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness I will not take from the fact that this budget has spread funding across various Departments and agencies and there will be a benefit from that throughout the country in the context of the manner in which the Government has approached the budget.

  I take the opportunity while the Minister, Deputy Reilly, is in the Chamber, to raise with him the issue of the child care package. I draw his attention to a submission that was made to him from a group in Carlow on the issue of commercial rates to be paid by the private operators. They are extremely concerned about it and find the rate burden very difficult to meet and they believe an effort should be made by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government to reduce that burden. Those operators are providing a direct service to the Minister's Department. They are fully reliant on any funding they get from the Department and they could be classified as an educational establishment rather than what they are, and that would assist them.

  I respect the job the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, who has just contributed, is doing and I acknowledge what has been done for the transport sector with which I am familiar. The initiative the Minister has taken in regard to road tax is significant for that sector directly and it will also have an impact on those who use the sector extensively. It will improve the cost base for hauliers who travel from here to the UK and to Europe to service our export market, which is essential to ensure an upturn in the economy.

  I wish to return to what was said at the time of the 2011 election. At that time we had come forward from a period where old tribalisms were well established in politics and there was a need for a shift in how we did our political business, accounted for ourselves in this House and the way the system accounted for itself in terms of the Comptroller and Auditor General and so on. Reforms were absolutely necessary. The Government parties have fallen way short of the mark with respect to the promises made by the then Government parties to the electorate, the reform package they put to it and their discussion about a democratic revolution. The Government parties have disappointed a great number of people throughout Ireland in that they have not used the large numbers they have in terms of Government support to bring about the reforms that are absolutely necessary. I saw the need for those reforms in politics. I have been a Member since 1997 and those reforms are still needed in the context of how we do our business in this House and how politics is managed generally. The way we are perceived outside this House requires a great deal of attention because that results in the reform-driven agenda that is so necessary in the context of managing budget figures and auditing those figures over the years.

  This budget is a nickel and dime approach to a whole sector of Departments and agencies. The only real big message that came out of it was the road tax agenda of the Minister, Deputy O'Donohoe, and the effect it will have on the haulage industry. The rest of what is in it is spread too thinly across society and the sectors within it to have any real impact. The changes that were necessary in terms of the reform I mentioned did not come about. As a result of that, we have the same type of budget process, we have the same tribalism within the political parties that existed in this House and we have the same approach to protecting the status quo. That nickel and dime approach will not buy the next election for the Government parties. Members of the public are of the same mind as they were in 2011 in regard to change and reform. They want their lives to be considered in this House. They want to know that the problems they face are concerns of ours and they want to know that we understand those concerns.

  There is very little in terms of social welfare provision for people who are on that level of income. I will cite an example given to me by Michael, a man from Kilkenny. He left me a note at my constituency clinic last Saturday. He states that his household benefit was thrashed, six weeks of fuel allowance is gone, 100 units of ESB have been cut and there has been a cut in his fuel allowance, from €23 down to €20. He has his household charge, his septic tank charge and his property tax. He has to pay his car tax and his petrol costs have risen. He has to pay €280 to a school for his child starting there without any regard to the cost of a uniform, shoes or anything else. He has suffered a cut in the back to the school allowance and a cut in his child benefit, although I know that will be increased marginally in this budget. He is getting €29 a week to look after a 13 year old girl and he is on a contributory pension. He also has all of the usual household bills, be it refuse, heating in term of gas or coal, or lighting. He has to pay €350 for the bus to take his child to school and he has home insurance of €310. The increase he will experience after this budget is nothing in the context of the real figures that he has to deliver on in terms of his household income and the draw on that income which is substantial. His quality of life and that of his family will not be improved by this budget. That is a tangible example of spreading provision too thinly across all various sectors. This man's boat has not risen.

  Another issue I have with the budget is with respect to the provision for entrepreneurs, of which great play was made. I will define that group. The entrepreneurs to whom I refer are the men, women and families in this country who have created 750,000 to 800,000 jobs and have sustained themselves through thick and thin in this economic downturn. The entrepreneurs who are still in business are anxious to participate in the creation of jobs. They want to be successful in their businesses. The biggest single drawback for them is the Government's attitude towards the small and medium enterprise sector. What the Minister has done in terms of examining the tax with respect to an employer versus an employee is marginal. It is nothing. It acknowledges their position, after years of turning a blind eye to it, but it does not help them in the course of this recession.

  I will relay what a man texted to me about the budget yesterday. I agree with the minimum wage, with improving people's lives and with helping people but Government intervention can often negatively distort what is happening in a small business and most small businesses today, the ones that are successful, the ones that have come through the difficulties and that are still with us, have bank debt, legacy debt and, presumably, a small debt to tide them over and keep them competitive and active in the marketplace. That man texted that the Minister's 50 cent per hour increase in the minimum wage adds €15,600 to his wage bill at a time when he cannot afford it. He stated that he sometimes takes home less than what his employees take home. He added that costs in the insurance industry are so out of control that this year alone added to his expense is €6,000 for insurances for his business. That is what is happening on the ground. The Government has failed in any significant way to address that. Small businesses on high streets throughout the country are under pressure and closing and nothing was offered to them by the Government. I noticed in the comment that was made about consultation that not one word was said about commercial rates. The commercial rate is the most unfair tax that could be levied on a small business. It is talked about most times in budgets. It is talked about inside and outside this House, but we have not given the political leadership that is necessary to reduce those rates and to bring in an ability-to-pay clause or an ability-to-pay-on-profit clause.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Deputy should get his party's councillors to do that.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness That is not good enough. With respect to that attitude from the Minister, Deputy Coveney, in making that comment about councillors, his party's councillors are in the majority.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney They are not.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness They want to increase the commercial rate.

Deputy Simon Coveney: Information on Simon Coveney Zoom on Simon Coveney The Deputy is wrong about his earlier comment.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness What is needed is a policy that will correct from the centre what is being collected unfairly from the people who are creating employment for 800,000 people in this country.

  The National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, was mentioned in the context of the provision of houses.

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