Fianna Fáil has described the Spring Economic Statement as a bitter disappointment to thousands of families throughout the country who were hoping for action to address serious economic and social problems.
Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Sean Fleming commented “This has been a complete damp squib. It was built up as a major new departure but the Spring Statement amounted to nothing more than a rehash of previous reports and announcements. Essentially two ministers spent an hour saying what could have been said in a matter of minutes. Dáil business is being set aside for a week to provide a platform for self-congratulation by the government. It is a long way from the democratic revolution promised by FG / Lab.
“Fianna Fáil’s core belief is that spending on public services such as education, health, social protection and childcare is progressive in nature as it benefits everyone in society but particularly those on lower income. However there was no substantial proposal to deal with over 400,000 people on hospital waiting lists, the chronic shortage of beds under the Fair Deal scheme or overcrowded classrooms.
“It is interesting that the Government have also produced forecasts which demonstrate that a balanced budget can be achieved in 2018 even with Irish Water on the state’s book. This is in sharp contrast to the apocalyptic predictions of a 4% rise in tax rates if Irish Water did not pass the market corporation test.”
Finance spokesperson Michael McGrath commented: “It is clear that the Government are determined to repeat the mistakes of this year’s budget in future years by focusing tax cuts on the top rate and those on above average earnings. Although claiming not to increase income tax rate since coming to power, this government have made 13 separate increases in tax on income, and a total of 45 separate tax increases. There have also been numerous stealth taxes which have driven up the cost of living for families.
“While promising tax cuts the government are seeking to hide very substantial increases in tax resulting from the abolition of mortgage interest relief in 2017 and the abolition of tax relief on private medical premia if Universal Health Insurance goes ahead. Together these would take €600m from families.
“The promised package of measures to deal with mortgage arrears did not materialise, apparently due to disagreements between Fine Gael and Labour over reducing the bankruptcy terms. It is urgently needed and should not be delayed any further,” concluded Deputy McGrath.