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Budget Statement 2018 (Continued)

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton] Major employers will not drop in to most parts of rural Ireland. We are dependent for creating social economic structures in rural Ireland to a significant degree on the post office and the development of alternative forms of banking, including community banking for which proposals have been brought forward time and time again. The Government claims to have a particular interest in rural Ireland but it has no vision and no imagination to support its economic development from the point of view of jobs, whether in services, post offices or community projects. There is a large reduction, for instance, in the spend devoted to community employment and Tús programmes to which I was connected and which I pushed as Minister. For Members who represent rural constituencies and, indeed, urban inner city constituencies, it is an awful mistake to fail to put a much higher value on the development of social enterprises in areas that are not benefitting from the same level of employment generation that we have witnessed in many large towns and cities. I would love a Minister to explain why there is a total absence on this. There is money for solar panels but what will help people who want to stay in rural Ireland to create or obtain sustainable employment and to develop their local communities?

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I was struggling to describe what to call this budget. It is effectively the cup of coffee budget. The Minister of State could wake up and pay a little attention.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan Are we running a recycling scheme?

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I am sorry the Minister of State has been left on his own, although I see another Minister of State has come in to join him. This is the cup of coffee budget for people of my age and, indeed, the Minister of State's age, living around the country, when the mortgage interest relief reduction, the increased cost of commuting and child care costs, which still have not been addressed - the provision of €20 million for child care is paltry in comparison to what is needed - are considered. A cup of coffee is what one gets from this budget-----

Acting Chairman (Deputy Eugene Murphy): Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy Guaranteed headline.

Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly -----but in all seriousness, that will be wiped away by the additional costs of living that we all know about. For people with children, because of the excessive costs associated with them, and those living in the Dublin conurbation who commute into the city, this is a negative budget. The tax, including income tax, changes make it a regressive budget; these are regressive moves. The changes to the tax band thresholds and the USC rates mean that the more somebody earns, the more he or she will benefit. Those on lower incomes will lose out. The budget is regressive in its stance.

It is also over-reliant on commercial stamp duty. We are going back to the bad old days. I do not say that every Fianna Fáil colleague was aligned to Mr. McCreevy, but this is a Charlie McCreevy cup of coffee budget because there is an over-reliance on property taxes again. How sustainable is that? How sustainable was that in the past? Is any Member worried about where we are going? I include my Fianna Fáil colleagues because many of them have acknowledged and stated that we cannot go back to that. However, that is where we are going because there is no guarantee that areas for which funding has been announced as a consequence of the €400 million that is projected to come in from this will be sustainable. We do not know if every plan that has been announced across education, health, housing and social welfare up to 2022 will happen because we do not know if this package is sustainable. That is very bad planning.

The budgetary process is, frankly, a joke. There is not a budgetary process that is real. We have had revelations in the House that the Minister for Finance shared documentation, and had discussions, with one other spokesperson on finance. He did not speak to our finance spokesperson in the same way and, therefore, the Minister is engaged in selective briefing. The complete budget was in the media over a week ago, with one or two small measures emerging in the past few days. That is not acceptable from a Government, it is not acceptable for the Parliament and it is insulting to every Member. God be with the days when a certain junior Minister was fired for a relatively minor indiscretion in comparison to what has gone on over the past two budgets. It is incredible, and it is not the way to do business. It is not appropriate for the country, it is not appropriate for the Houses of the Oireachtas and it is not an appropriate way for the Government to behave. Please change it the next time around.

When it comes to a number of decisions the Government made on tax issues, I welcome the Brexit trade adjustment fund, which is a Labour Party proposal. I am glad that our former colleagues in government listened to us on that.

When it comes to health care, I spent 11 months on the Committee on the Future of Healthcare. It proposed a good compromise with a ten-year programme of work. It is now over. The Dáil approved the programme 100%; there was no dissenting voice. I cannot stand new politics and I do not believe in it. However, if new politics delivered one thing, it was that we got together to say we would take the politics out of health care. We spent 11 months doing that and put a programme together to which everyone signed up but now it is in the bin because the Sláintecare implementation plan has not been funded as part of the budget. The early years of the programme require less funding. The funding ramps up year on year because that is the nature of it. If year one has not been funded, what hope is there for the implementation of the programme? That is a huge disappointment given transitional funding of €155 million was required. I am a huge supporter of ehealth. We cannot transform our health services without modernising its IT systems. That is not provided for. I acknowledge the funding for mental health services but how it will be used and actioned is a different issue. There have been funding announcements for diagnostics, primary care and community care under the implementation plan but legacy issues that require funding were also identified as part of Sláintecare and they have not been dealt with, nor have inpatient charges or dental treatment. There will be - we have seen the reports - a catastrophe in respect of dental hygiene if we do not return to a proper programme of dental care. This is another issue that has not been dealt with.

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