Monday, October 14, 2013

A Mean budget

Tomorrow – Tuesday - the Fine Gael and Labour government will publish its third budget. They were elected to undo the damage of Fianna Fáil but have chosen instead to implement Fianna Fáil policies. This will be the seventh austerity budget by those three parties which collectively will have stripped €30 billion out of the economy.

In the days leading to the budget the Simon Community released the latest details of homelessness which is spiralling to new levels. As well as an increase in the numbers of homeless it reports that government cuts to the budgets of homeless services and charities are causing huge difficulties.

The Central Statistics Office in its most recent survey on Income and Living Conditions recorded that the numbers in the ‘at risk poverty rate’ had increased from 14.7 per cent in 2010 to 16 percent in 2011.

Another report in recent days revealed that 1800 patients, including some with life threatening conditions, are waiting on cardiac treatment for up to six months. Staff cuts and funding cuts have left all of the 36 hospitals surveyed by the Irish Association of Cardiac Rehabilitation and the Irish Heart Foundation without the cardiac rehab expertise they need.

These are just two of countless examples of how austerity policies driven by Fine Gael and Labour are hurting citizens.

The government’s austerity policies are driving up poverty and disadvantage. Emigration and unemployment are at record levels especially among our young people; public services, particularly health, are in crisis and there are more cuts to be imposed this year; the economy is flat lined and the family home tax is being imposed on citizens. Every day families contact my office and the offices of every other TD about bad decisions taken in respect of their medical cards – decisions that are driving families over the edge into poverty and leaving many without the essential health care they need.
The determination of Fine Gael and Labour to stick to austerity is causing huge difficulties for families and small and medium businesses across this state. There have been:
  • Cutbacks in special needs education
  • Cuts to Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit and to the home help services.
  • Cuts to those reliant on social welfare - cuts to the Household Benefits Package which provides a range of assistance for pensioners, carers and people with disabilities.
  • Cuts to homelessness services of 10%.
  • Attacks on low and middle income earners– family stealth taxes, household charges, water charges, the USC and cost of living increases.
While at the same time there have been increases in salaries for Government appointees – including clear breaches of the cap imposed on salaries to be paid to government special advisors.

Austerity is working for the wealthy but it isn’t working for low and middle income families. Some 415,000 people are on the live register while 300,000 have emigrated in the last four years.

There are 49,000 people waiting for hospital treatments.

One in ten children are living in consistent poverty with 47% of households living on less than €100 a month after bills.

There are 90,000 households languishing on social housing lists while 180,000 households are in mortgage distress.

There are alternative policies. There are decisions that can be taken by this government which can ease the burden on low and middle income families and on those who are disadvantaged.

Labour knows this. In opposition it argued against many of the policies it is now implementing in government.
In the 2011 general election Labour warned what a Fine Gael government would do. In its Tesco-like ad ‘Every Little Hurts’ Labour claimed that a vote for Fine Gael would see child benefit cut; car tax increase; VAT increase and water charges introduced.

Labour claimed a vote for it was a vote to stop these.

After the election Labour u-turned and broke all of these election pledges. Labour cut Child benefit. Labour has backed water charges. Labour supported VAT increases and car tax increases.

When asked on RTE about Labour’s broken election promise to protect child benefit, Pat Rabitte said: “Isn’t that what you tend to do during an election?”

Tuesday’s budget will see the imposition of more cuts.

The damage being done to the economy by these decisions will be significant. But the damage done to society will be greater still and this government seems unconcerned about the social consequences of its decisions.

Fianna Fáil's disastrous time in office, and its surrender of economic sovereignty has left the state in a criticial financial position. Sinn Féin understands that the books must be balanced but it is the decisions that are taken to achieve this that are vital.

Last week Sinn Féin produced our alternative fully costed budget. It reduces the tax burden on ordinary families, protects public services and invests in jobs.

There are over 30 measures tax and savings measures in our document to make a deficit adjustment of €2.45 billion and pay for our €750 million worth of proposed new spending and tax back. These include:
  • 48% tax on income over €100,000: Raises€365 million
  • Re-introduce Non-Principal private Residence charge at€400: Raises €151 million
  • Restore Capital GainsTax to 40%: Raises €98 million
  • Increase Capital AcquisitionsTax to 40% and lower thresholds: Raises €108 million
  • 1% Wealth Tax on net wealth over €1 million
  • New employers’ rate of PRSI of 15.75% on portion of salary over €100,000: Raises€119.1 million
  • Standardise pension tax reliefs: Raises €343 million
  • Allow for carry-over (€583mn): adjustments
    (€607mn) and partial year (€405mn)
  • Deliver further savings on branded medicines and alter prescribing practices: Saves €258million
  • Partial introduction of full cost private care in public hospitals: Saves €120million
  • Phased withdrawal of private school annual state subsidy: Saves €36.3million
  • Oireachtas Pay and Allowances, including Taoiseach and Ministers reduced by 50% of everything over €75,000, and TDs and Senators reduced to €75,000 and €60,000 saves €3.7million.
Part of our budget also calls for free GP care for under five’s. Last week when launching the document I said that we were happy for the government to plagiarise any or all of it. At the weekend there were media reports that it is planning to introduce free GP care for the under 5s. We wait to see whether this is true and if they plan to adopt other parts of our budget.

In the Dáil chamber this week Sinn Féin’s Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD and other colleagues will expose the meanness of this government and the hypocrisy of Labour and we will stand up for the rights of citizens – especially those who are least able to defend themselves.

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