Budget 2020 should not only set out robust measures to protect jobs and the economy from Brexit, but it should also include actions to promote economic equality and it should invest in climate, housing, health and our children to build an equal society.
We can’t allow Brexit to stop social progress or to delay removing greenhouse gases from our economy.
The public finances have recovered from the mismanagement of Fianna Fáil and the 2008 crash. Ireland’s national debt is under control and interest rates charged on government bonds are low. Despite Fine Gael making costly errors on the National Children’s Hospital, metro and rural broadband, the national debt is decreasing every year due to the growth of the economy. Labour believes that Ireland should continue to target public debt levels below 60% of GDP, while also using the state’s capacity to borrow at low rates to make much-needed investment that will boost economic activity even if Brexit causes a slowdown.
People have waited long enough for a full social recovery to follow the economic recovery. Instead, Fine Gael is promising tax cuts for the well-off while refusing to deal with glaring inequalities like low pay – not least in our Defence Forces – or the fact that many people can’t keep up with costs in housing, childcare or health services.
Now is the time to ensure everyone has work that pays a living wage, and to make the necessary investments in climate, housing, health and our children’s future to build an equal society.
Brexit: Protecting Jobs
Labour would make €1 billion immediately available from state reserves (cash balances) to be ready for use on Day One of any 'no deal' Brexit. This money would be used for subsidies and loans to preserve jobs during the difficult period before the UK establishes a new trading relationship with the EU. Labour would put another €2 billion from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund on standby, to underline our commitment to avoid heavy job losses from Brexit. Some of these funds would also help businesses to find new markets and help workers train and develop new skills for the post-Brexit trading environment.
Work and Social Protection (€573 million)
Labour would restore income tax relief for trade union subscriptions, provide for pay equalisation for new entrants to the public service and add €5/week to all welfare payments. In addition, Labour would ensure a living wage of €12.30/hour is the minimum paid across the public sector and in childcare, invest more in Community Employment and new opportunities for people who are long-term unemployed, end the lower rates of social welfare for young people, increase income disregard for lone parents, and extend PRSI treatments to pre-1995 public servnts.
Climate (€310 million)
Labour would reduce public transport fares by 10% and increase subsidies for public transport and cycling. Labour would launch a €100 million programme of retrofitting council houses, which home owners can be included in for a modest contribution. To eliminate fuel poverty, Labour would add €12 million to the Warmer Homes scheme and add €2.50/week plus an extra week to Fuel Allowance.
Housing (€455 million)
Labour's core housing policy is to kick-start a national fund of €16 billion, to build 80,000 homes over five years. Credit unions and other institutions would be able to invest in the fund to support homebuilding at a secure return. In our alternative budget for 2020, Labour includes €450 million to bring the total number of council houses built in 2020 to 10,000 (2,264 additional homes).
Health (€707 million)
Labour would fund free GP care for the under-18s, lower prescription charges to €1/item and reduce hospital in- and out-patient charges by 50%. Labour would ensure everyone with a terminal illness receives a Medical Card, and would fund an additional 100,000 personal assistance hours for people with disabilities. Labour would invest €72 million to provide a home care package to every identified case, and increase the Carer's Allowance income disregard and provide more funding for dementia supports. Labour would increase funding for mental health services (including Child and Adolescent) by €50 million.
Children (€637 million)
Labour would add €66 million to increase the universal childcare subsidy, provide two weeks extra of paid parental leave, and a €5 increase in the ECCE capitation (linked to ensuring childcare workers are paid at least a living wage of €12.30/hour). Labour would make primary school genuinely free of charge, by providing a universal uniform grant, providing free schoolbooks and bus places, and ensuring hot school meals are provided. Class sizes would be reduced, teaching principal given an administration day and DEIS schools capitation increased by 50%.
Other Measures (€155 million)
Labour would allocate €10 million for Defence Forces pay and allowances, continue to increase funding for overseas aid towards 0.7%/GNI by 2025, and recruit an additional 800 Gardaí.
To see more detail, read Labour's alternative budget document (above)
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