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Financial Resolution No. 2: General (Resumed) (Continued)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 924 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy John Curran: Information on John Curran Zoom on John Curran] The figure is inadequate, given that there are thousands of such properties. In terms of a return on investment, 150 properties would not accommodate those in emergency accommodation. I know that it is only one element, but it is not half ambitious enough; therefore, we need to revisit the issue as soon as possible.

A series of additional funding measures was listed under the heading of "Compliance Measures" in the budget 2017 document. My concern is that the measures are conservative and background information on how the figures were calculated has not been supplied or, if it has - the fault might lie with me - I have not seen it. Approximately 10% of the €1.3 billion is to come from these compliance measures. I would like further information on them because, when one examines them, the section 110 and fund changes are expected to yield approximately €50 million, the measures to tackle offshore evasion are expected to yield €30 million, while the provision of increased resources to confront the issue of non-compliance is expected to lead to a yield of €50 million. As a former member of the Committee of Public Accounts, I know that when we have delved into figures in detail, the returns have been far greater. This issue should be examined because it underpins the basis of budget 2017 and reflects back to the fact that the increases in social welfare payments will not kick in on 1 January, as they should.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness Budget 2017 is a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. The money has been spread too thinly across the economy and citizens have not really gained that much financially. The other shocking part about the budget is that it makes no effort to deal with the structural issues we all face in constituencies and which are, therefore, faced by citizens.

The €5 increase in social welfare benefits will mean nothing to many once the local authority deals with the increase in the context of differential rent. The increased income will mean a reassessment of means and part of the increase will be taken back by the State. This issue should have been tackled. For example, the local authorities could have been instructed that for those in a particular age group or income sector they need not take the increase into account. This could have been done, but it was not.

The other issue is that of medical cards. The medical card system is still a fiasco. Those who apply for a medical card are asked repeatedly for the same information. They supply the information required when they submit an application also on request. Despite this, they are still told it was not received. This is a structural issue. Furthermore, every cent of income in the household is examined. If the system was a little more reasonable in the case of those who have little or nothing, many applications for a medical card would be approved. This may present a difficulty in managing the economy generally, but we have to think of those who we are serving, many of whom have a serious difficulty in engaging with the State. They may not be IT literate and may have difficulty in completing forms or collecting the information required owing to their age or medical circumstances and this prevents them from receiving an early response to a medical card application. The onus is on us to ensure we make life easier for them. Similar to what I said about the €5 increase, the Government could have set different standards for the assessment of applications for a medical card. It could have allowed those most in need of one to escape the heavy bureaucratic hand now placed on every single citizen making such an application.

The disability sector has been neglected entirely in budget 2017. In my constituency funding is required for St. Patrick's Centre on Kells Road in Kilkenny to alleviate the problems in balancing its books, problems caused by under-funding for a number of years. There has been no structural change in approaching these long-term problems which will cause difficulty for service users and further difficulties for the State, but nothing has been done to solve them. It is the same old story; it is not new politics. In fact, an overall examination of the budget shows that it is proof that there is no new politics. It is the same old story, year in, year out, with window-dressing here and there to give the impression that we are very busy doing things differently, but nothing could be further from the truth. Let us face up to it: unless we get stuck in and bring about the necessary structural changes, the position will still be the same next year.

Deputy John Curran mentioned the credit unions. They have €7 billion on deposit which they want to put to work in the economy, but the Government and the bureaucracy surrounding it are stopping them from doing so. Why should they - the friends of the people - not be allowed to engage in the funding of the construction of houses or local businesses? What would be so wrong with that? In a time of great need for cash, there are those who say they have some and ask for it to be matched. They want to be allowed to do the work that is needed, but there is no immediate response. It is almost as if there is no crisis. There are 3,500 people on the housing waiting list in County Kilkenny alone, yet there has been no real response. There seems to be no great urgency to deal with the matter. Again, structural change is required. Perhaps a Minister might turn around or reverse the legislation or regulations governing the credit unions, engage with the Central Bank and allow it to happen.

There was no groundbreaking news for business in budget 2017. There was a €400 increase in the tax credit for the self-employed, but it is to be spread over 12 months. The Government needs to move beyond this and see what the real problems are. If a self-employed person goes broke an individual or a family is affected but there will be no income relief. There is no incentive for indigenous Irish businesses to create jobs. They need help and we should be giving them a vote of confidence. The self-employed created 800,000 jobs in better times. They have the capability and the ability to do exactly the same again, but they need the State to understand they are too heavily policed in terms of red tape and bureaucracy and do not have the necessary flexibility to respond to the issues of the day because they may not have the funding or the support of the State to do it.

There are jobs available in the hospitality sector and many other small businesses. An initiative to help them could have extended the life of a business on the high street and the main street of towns and villages. It could have given an individual the confidence to start a business or reopen a unit that had been closed down or gone out of business. The budget shows no vision or strategy for entrepreneurs in seeking to revitalise the communities we represent. It is as if we did not listen to the Small Firms Association or other such organisations. These organisations, like the credit unions, are willing to put their money where their members' mouths are and do something for the economy, but we ignore them. We did it in successive budgets and in the era of new politics, given that we now have a budgetary committee and so on, I would have thought these issues would have been teased out, but they were not. We have received no response.

There is still €45 billion of bad debt in the banks. Nothing has been done to help those in debt and to give those with the ability and the capability to do business and get on with their lives a chance to perform again in the economy.


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