Budget 2020 Ireland: Relive all updates as Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe delivered ‘tight-fisted’ report

Finance Minister ratchets up cost of living in tight-fisted Budget

Paschal Donohoe ratcheted up the cost of living and gave nothing back to the people in return as he revealed his tight-fisted Budget.

The mean Finance Minister’s measures will hit the middle and working classes, and the poorest even harder, as there is little or no sign of any relief anywhere in the 250-page document.

Sinn Fein finance spokesman Pearse Doherty last night slammed it as one without hope.

He said: “It is a Budget short on ideas, short on policies, short on solutions. It is a Budget that lacks ambition, lacks direction, and lacks hope.”

Pensioners, the unemployed, PAYE families and the working poor will all face a tough winter because of the measures.

An analysis of the numbers shows there is absolutely nothing to show in kickbacks from the Government such as old age pension, unemployment benefit or children’s allowance increases.

But harsh taxes such as the Universal Social Charge, which was only meant to be temporary during the recession, continue to be levelled at crippling rates.

Yet the cost of living is set to rise steadily with hikes in petrol and diesel, cigarettes and tobacco, home heating and energy.

These will hit the poorest in society hardest as they are the ones that can least afford a new electric car to avert fuel costs, or solar panels on the roof to avoid carbon tax hikes.

Minister Donohoe later defended the measures, saying he could have opened the purse strings but it would have been a dangerous move as Ireland stares down the barrel of a no-deal Brexit.

He told Virgin Media News: “I could have done the easy thing.

“I could have made decisions that I know would be very popular. But instead, the far better thing to do is to be organised with our funds and our finances.”

At the same time however, tax breaks and incentives for developers continue, with billions heading into their coffers again.

The Help To Buy scheme, which Rise TD Paul Murphy described as a “Help To Profit” scheme for developers, continues full steam ahead.

He said: “If you are wealthy, if you’re a developer, or a major corporation this Budget will benefit you. If you are a low or middle income worker, part of a rural family, or are affected by the housing crisis, this Budget will leave you worse off. The Budget further exacerbates the inequality in society – placing the burden of Brexit and climate change on working class people, while continuing handouts and giveaways to the rich and wealthy.”

The banking levy of €150million – which makes the bailed-out banks pay back at least some of the €60billion they cost the people – is not being increased this year despite calls from Labour for it to be more than doubled. Instead, Mr Donohoe indicated that next year would be the last year it would apply, which will set the banks free to run wild again.

The Fine Gael-led Government has also been slammed for its paltry increase in funding for the homeless.

With more than 10,000 without a place of their own every evening, including 4,000 children, the Government has only found an extra €20million to tackle the problem. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the crisis as “a stain on our society” during his Fine Gael President’s Dinner address last Saturday night.

But there was little evidence in the Budget this Government is doing anything to erase the scourge.

Francis Doherty from the Peter McVerry Trust said: “We welcome the increase in the operational Budget for emergency accommodation which reflects an expected increase in the numbers of people who will experience homelessness in 2020.

“Unfortunately, the €20million increase in the funding in 2020 will be split across emergency accommodation, prevention measures as well as day services.

“Given that the rate of new cases into homelessness is at the highest rate on record, Peter McVerry Trust advocated strongly and had hoped for a robust package of prevention initiatives.”

Mr Donohoe also announced an extra €80million for the Housing Assistance Payments scheme for next year.

But even though this helps people pay the rent, it has been slammed by the Social Democrats as it ultimately fills the pockets of private landlords. The scheme is worth millions to private landlords.

Co-leader Catherine Murphy said: “The Budgetary allocation of an additional €80million to HAP in 2020 will bring the total funding for HAP to just over €500million-a-year.

“That is €500million-a-year directly to private landlords and a strong indication of the further commodification of housing by a Government which prioritises the private market approach which, given the extent of the housing emergency, has very clearly failed. That funding would be far more effectively spent in creating an affordable rental scheme with proper regulation and security of tenure.”

Union Siptu criticised the Budget as “regressive”.

General secretary designate Joe Cunningham said: “In our view the Budget is muddled, contradictory and regressive.”

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