Leo Varadkar’s first budget was unveiled yesterday which contained modest increases in public spending alongside a small measure of tax relief.
The budget was not expected to be a giveaway and there was no real surprises as many of the big details had already leaked.
The total expenditure comes to 60.9 billion which represents nearly €13k per person. The minister said he was choosing “the right budget stance” to comply with the confidence and supply arrangement with Fianna Fail.
In a sign of the depth of the homeless crisis it was the first topic the Minister tackled. He acknowledged the “corrosive impact of homelessness” and pledged 1.83 billion in housing spending and promised to build 3.800 new social homes.
There’s to be an €18 million increase in homelessness services which will bring total expenditure to €116 million and the housing assistance scheme will be increase. The Simon community has criticised the budget for making no mention of affordable housing and said that “proactive state intervention is required to tackle the crisis.”
The average worker will see their wages increase by an average of €250 and stay at
home parents will be €100 per year better off.
Cigarette smokers will pay an extra 50 cents per pack of twenty. The Retailers against smuggling organisation criticised the move saying retailers “are angry at the Government’s decision to impose yet another excise increase of 50 cent on tobacco, bringing the total cost of a packet of cigarettes to €12.”
There has been a five euro increase in social welfare payments and 85% of the Christmas bonus is to be restored. People in receipt of the one parents family allowance will see their payment increase by €20.00.
There has been mixed reaction to the measures amongst NGO’s with many advocates declaring that the rise is spending does not go far enough to address widespread social issues requiring investment.
Valerie Maher, One Family Policy & Programmes Manager, said: “Today’s Budget goes a small way towards supporting lone parents and their children, but so much more is needed.” She welcomed the five euro a week increase to social welfare payments but said “it is not enough to lift lone parents and their children out of the consistent poverty and deprivation that resulted from previous reform of the One-Parent Family Payment.”
Barnardo’s said the budget “has provided some small gains for families, such as funding for frontline health services and investment in housing supports, it fails to provide real solutions for the major challenges facing children today. The Government has not delivered on promises of a new era of politics.”
Fergus Finlay, Barnados CEO added “The additional staff for frontline health services, the increase investment in the Housing Assistance Payments (HAP), and additional support for TUSLA are welcome investments that will have some positive impact on families, but ultimately the Government missed its opportunity to show its commitment to children.” He also criticised the “meagre” €2 qualified child increase saying “it will do little to address child poverty – it won’t even cover the cost of a loaf of bread and litre of milk. Funds would have been better spent committed to a substantial increase in the QCI rate for over 12’s recognising the increased cost of raising a teenage.”