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Roisin Shortall TD

The Government’s budget is a missed opportunity to make huge and lasting improvements in the lives of those who need it most, according to Social Democrats Finance Spokesperson Róisín Shortall.

“The housing disaster is the biggest challenge we face as a country. Nothing in this budget indicates that there will be any change in Government housing policy to drive down prices and boost the supply of genuinely affordable homes.

“Instead, everything is geared to further inflating prices. In fact, the Government has allocated more money to a tax break to landlords, earning record rents, than the tenants who are paying them.

“The Government obsessed about its USC cuts in advance of this budget – but what do they amount to? A cut of €10 for low paid workers on €25,000 and a cut of €235 for those on €70,000 – a figure that’s 23 times higher. This apparently represents the government’s attempt to prioritise low-and-middle income earners.

“This Government’s approach to tax cuts is clear – the more you earn, the more you get. Meanwhile, those on the margins, barely scraping by, are being pushed into poverty by this Government.

“The €12 increase in core social welfare rates is less than half of what was required to keep up with inflation. What it will mean in practical terms is pensioners making choices between eating and heating; disabled people at greater risk of poverty; and one-parent families in which children are going to school hungry.

“This budget barely scratches the surface of what is needed to end the scandal of child poverty. The paltry €4 increase in Qualified Child Payment – a targeted payment to the most vulnerable children – is an outrage. The required increase here was €15 for children over 12 and €10 for children under 12 – double and triple the eventual meagre increase.

“This Government’s sleight of hand – using one-off payments to mask an erosion of essential core supports for the most vulnerable over many years – cannot mask the inadequacy of their measures. It is a three-card trick, in which the vulnerable are cheated out of requisite supports.

“The Government is so bereft of ideas in health that it had to cram the budget full of measures that have already been announced. A promise to deliver an additional 2,400 beds had to be deleted when it was pointed out it was a pre-existing commitment.

“There is nothing in the document that tells us how the crisis in waiting lists and shortage of staff will be addressed. The budget is also silent on pay parity for section 39 workers, who are about to go on indefinite strike causing further chaos in the delivery of healthcare and disability services.

“Instead of making education genuinely free – which would cost just two per cent of the overall education budget – the Government has taken a piecemeal approach by only providing free schoolbooks to students up to Junior Certificate level. It’s hard to fathom this level of parsimony from a Government that routinely claims to want to prioritise child poverty and education.

“The Government excels at climate rhetoric but fails miserably at climate action. There is nothing to suggest this will change after this budget. The creation of a climate fund is welcome – and was recommended by the Social Democrats in our alternative budget – but there is little detail on how or when this money will be spent.

“Given the available resources, there was an opportunity for Budget 2024 to be genuinely transformative and tackle some of the major problems facing the country, in areas such as housing, childcare, disability, climate and education.

“We could have finally begun to address the chronic underinvestment in public services by bringing them up to European standards. This would help reduce the cost of living and ensure that people get value for their taxes.

“Regrettably, the Government’s budget is a missed opportunity to make huge and lasting improvements in the lives of those who need it most.

“It is yet another example of pulling up the ladder with a disproportionate emphasis on short-term measures, rather than lasting structural reforms to substantially change our country for the better in the medium to longer term.”

October 10, 2023

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