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Budget Statement 2019 (Continued)

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 973 No. 2

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  7 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan] The current and capital education budget increases amount to just under €500 million and they do little but address the demographic needs of our population. For example, only €4 million will be provided in additional capitation in 2019. The move to an NTF levy of 1% is welcome.

The Revenue Commissioners' statistics and economic research branch provided information on income, USC and other key tax changes which could have been positive. I welcome the change in the standard rate band and the slight improvements in tax credits but the national minimum wage should have been increased to €10.50 per hour rather than €9.80 because we should strive to reach a national living wage of €11.90 per hour over the next year or two at the latest. The Minister could have taken many other steps. For example, I proposed a 43% tax on incomes greater than €120,000 per annum in my budget submission, which would have yielded significant additional funding. I also supported Deputy Wallace's proposal for a 25% vacant site levy. Deputy Wallace will be aware that the Department of Finance costed his proposal and if proceeded with, it would have yielded an additional €105 million up to 2020. The Government could have taken many more positive, fairer and egalitarian tax initiatives. In many respects, the Minister had scope for a much fairer landmark budget, even allowing for Brexit and the other severe external challenges. Once again, he chose the Fine Gael spin over substance route. Despite what the media may headline tomorrow, this budget is essentially a standstill exercise to see how the wind will blow from 29 March 2019 and whether another budget will be necessary in 2019. It particularly fails citizens who are in housing need and those who are ill.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins This is an election budget. There are no big giveaways, with just a little here and a little there, something for everyone in the audience. Listening to the Minister, one would think we did not have a housing emergency and that homelessness has not more than trebled in the past four years. One would think we did not have a crisis in our health services, with 700,000, or one in six, citizens on a waiting list. We also have one in six people, including 100,000 at work, on incomes below the poverty line. This budget will make little or no difference to those struggling to live on an inadequate income, including the 50% of people earning €27,000 per annum or below. It will make no difference to those who are struggling to get or keep a roof over their heads that they can afford or to those who are ill or have ill relatives. It will make no difference to the almost 100% increase in the number of people reliant on food supports between 2016 and 2017. Two years ago, 54,000 people were supported through the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, an EU scheme augmented by national governments. Last year, demand for this support doubled to 96,000. Financial support for the food programmes increased from €36,000 in 2015 to almost €3 million last year - so much for progressive budgets. More than €6 million has been spent through the programme since July 2016. This data challenge the Government's mantra of widespread economic recovery and, "We're all in this together, wear the green jersey."

This budget represents more of the same, namely, the maintenance of Ireland as a tax haven for multinationals and high wealth individuals. There was nothing concrete in the Minister's statement regarding corporation taxes. According to a report last year from the Comptroller and Auditor General, of the top 100 companies, 13 had paid an effective rate of less than 1%. The window dressing on this issue will have to stop. Social Justice Ireland has noted that an effective rate of 6% would yield an additional 1% in corporation tax next year and a reduction in the tax break on intellectual properties from 100% to 80% would yield an additional €750 million. The Minister also made no mention of the fact that 140 of Ireland's 334 high net individuals, who individually have more than €50 million in assets, declared income of only €125,000 per annum, with 83 declaring a taxable income below the average wage of €36,500. It is scandalous that this is allowed to happen at a time people are sleeping on the streets and living in hotels, bed and breakfasts and hubs. At a minimum, action is needed to close loopholes in reliefs to bring the effective corporate tax rate close to the 12% nominal rate, the abolition of section 110 provisions and avoidance mechanisms such as the knowledge development box and an end to the banks writing off taxes on the basis of past losses. This budget does nothing to raise the living standards of those on low and moderate incomes, which is the majority of the population. What will make a difference is affordable housing, free high quality healthcare, affordable childcare and an end to the scourge of low pay affecting one in four workers.

On housing, Government policy in this area has failed and will continue to fail. A policy reliant on private landlords and developers cannot resolve the housing crisis. The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government claims that 25,000 social housing solutions were provided in 2017. In reality, only 7,000 new homes comprised social housing stock, of which only 400 were built by local authorities. Of the 12,358 provided so far this year, only 487 or 4% were new builds by local authorities. Subsidies to private landlords by way of HAP and RAS will reach €1 billion by 2021 yet this housing will not add to the public housing stock or provide any security of tenure. This is a landlords budget. Tax relief for landlords has been increased from 80% to 100%. The alternative to this policy of incentivising developers, landlords and REITs, has been outlined again and again and not only by those of us on the left or on the Opposition benches.

On health, it is my belief that this Government has quietly shelved the Sláintecare proposals for reform and a phased introduction of free healthcare at the point of delivery and access for all, with an emphasis on primary care and care in the community. Without the Sláintecare reforms and funding to implement them, we face a worsening crisis in our two-tier system. In 2015, childcare costs for lone parents were the highest in the EU and the second highest for couples. The average spend on childcare is 35% of a family income, which is double the EU average, and there is no guarantee that the recent subsidies are being passed on through reduced fees. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called for public investment in early years care and education to be increased over the next five years to at least 1% of GDP. Currently, we spend 0.1% on this sector, which is 10% of what is required. The State should support the development of community co-operatives in this area to provide more affordable care with better pay and conditions for workers in the sector.

It is an absolute scandal that one day after the announcement of the nightmare facing the world in terms of climate change, the budget provides no increase in carbon tax.

Joined-up thinking with long-term goals, together with public investment in housing, healthcare and childcare, would help to transform lives and challenge the problems of poverty and inequality in our society, which we will not get from this Government or any Government dominated by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. They should go to the electorate and let the people decide.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Nuair atá tuismitheoirí agus teaghlaigh ag déileáil le fadhbanna iompair i measc a gcuid gasúir ar bhonn leanúnach gan réiteach, tagann pointe nuair a ghlacann siad leis go bhfuil gá le réiteach eile, agus go gcaithfear dul i ngleic le fadhbanna iompair na ngasúir i mbealach eile. Sna cásanna sin, níl i gceist leis na fadhbanna iompair ach comharthaí ag eascairt as fadhbanna i bhfad níos tromchúisí sna teaghlaigh sin. Tuigeann tuismitheoirí ciallmhara go bhfuil gá ann dul i ngleic leis na fadhbanna sin i mbealaí eile.

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