Fianna Fáil has today published its proposals ahead of Budget 2015 with the focus of the measures on building a more caring society and investing in critical frontline services for citizens.
Fianna Fáil is proposing a budget adjustment of €220m which should bring the deficit comfortably below 3% in 2015.
Speaking at the launch of the party’s proposals Spokesperson on Finance Michael McGrath commented: “After seven very difficult years in which tax rose and expenditure was reduced, the Irish people need a break from the relentless burden of austerity. While the budget presented by the government may be fiscally neutral, it is unlikely to be socially balanced given their recent budgets. The hallmark of this government to date has been a series of regressive budgets. It is important to remember that the Government are taking €300m from families through the introduction of water charges and there are further cuts to family incomes from the abolition of mortgage interest relief, restrictions on tax relief for medical insurance and changes to the one parent family payment. Any budget day concessions must be seen in this context.”
Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Sean Fleming said: “Fianna Fáil has identified the pressure on working families, medical costs and housing as the priority areas in which to target relief. We have identified a package of measures which will deliver modest relief to those who have that some of the hardest hits in recent times. Among our measures we are proposing a reduction in the threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme to €120 a month from €144 and the extension of the €100 payment to offset water charges to recipients of the fuel allowance.”
Fianna Fáil’s key proposals include:
- Reduce pupil teacher ratio by one point at primary level and a reverse cuts to small rural schools
- Prioritise mental health and suicide prevention through new National Mental Health Authority
- Provide for 20,000 new discretionary medical cards
- Target childcare supports for working families & long-term unemployed taking up employment
- Reduce threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme to €120 a month from €144
- Increase resource hours for special needs pupils
- Recruit 500 additional Gardaí
Deputy McGrath added, “In future years as the deficit is brought down and eliminated it should be possible to make further improvements in the living standards of those most affected by the recession. In the meantime, our proposals can make a real difference to hard pressed families and will underpin the recovery in a fair and equitable manner.
“We are setting out a path to reduce the tax burden and make the taxation system more equitable. This would occur over a number of years. In the first year, we propose to increase mortgage interest relief for those who took out a qualifying loan prior to 2009 from 30% to 40%. This would cost €49m and be focused on assisting those who are continuing to struggle with high mortgage payments.”
Deputy Fleming added: “There is over €2.5bn in cash sitting in the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund. We are proposing an investment of €1bn in 2015 to build 6,500 social housing units which will be available to local authorities and voluntary housing partnerships on a long term lease arrangement.
“We believe there is significant scope to achieve further savings through efficiencies in the public services. We believe further changes in the public procurement process, social welfare control measures and efforts to get to grips with HSE drugs budget will yield significant resources to reinvest in public services,” added Deputy Fleming.
Spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Dara Calleary said: “Fianna Fáil believes we need as great an emphasis on domestic enterprises as has been successfully given to foreign direct investment over many years. Our proposals include expanding the role of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland to allow it to lend directly to SMEs; tackling the skills crisis by targeting an increase in the number of people in apprenticeships through a major expansion of places; and require the Central Bank to publish and implement targets for all banks in respect of dealing with legacy debt of SMEs.
Deputy Calleary added: “We also want to incentivise entrepreneurs to set up new businesses by providing tapered relief from capital gains tax. A reduced rate of CGT of 15% should apply to entrepreneurs who subsequently sell their business.”