The Government’s fifth and final Budgetary Statement has just concluded. The view was Janus-faced, asking us to take note of “the journey travelled over the past 100 years” and the path ahead of us.
The aim of the Government was to “keep recovery going”.
Minister Noonan assured that by 2020, Ireland will have more people working than ever before. By the end of 2016, we will have reduced our deficit to 2.1% of GDP. Minister Howlin later noted that, upon election in 2011, the deficit was 12.5% of GDP.
Taxes reductions were a big talking point of the Budget. Minister Noonan announced the following changes:
-Increased excise on cigarettes, 50c on packs. This is the only increase in taxes.
-The band for inclusion in USC payment will be increased from €12,012 to €13000.
-The USC rates will also see cuts. Rates, as of January 1, 2016 will be:
1.5% down to 1%, on income up to €12012
3.5% down to 3%, on income up to €18668
7% down to 5.5%, on income up to €70044
-On average, workers’ incomes will increase by 1.8%, or a full week’s wages.
-Home Carer Tax Credit will be increased by €90 to €1000.
-There will be a new, tapered approach to PRSI credits at €12 per week or €624 per annum. Employer PRSI threshold will be increased by €20 a month.
-Minister Noonan has rescheduled the Local Property Tax question until 2019.
Minister Howlin stressed the importance of “decent jobs and fair wages”. He later proclaimed that “a recovery based on low wages is no recovery at all”.
Therefore, the minimum wage is to be increased, from €8.65 to €9.15 per hour.
He also announced the beginning of the unwinding of emergency legislation to allow for pay rises in the public sector to mirror rises in the private sector.
Childcare has been rumoured to be one of the Coalition’s main focuses in Budget 2016, with an eye on “affordability and quality”.
€1.1bn has been allocated to the DCYA in this Budget.
The Early Childhood Care Scheme has been expanded to provide for free childcare for those aged 3 to five-and-a-half, or up to the start of primary school.
€15m will be provided to make sure disabled children are included in this scheme.
There will be an increase in audits, inspection, training, capacity levels in the childcare sector.
Child Benefit will be increased by €5. From January 2016, Child Benefit will be €140 per month for every child.
Statutory Paternity leave of two weeks will come in to affect from September 2016.
In Education, funding will be provided for 2260 new teachers, including 600 resource teachers.
The teacher-to-child ratio will be decreased.
Pensions will be increased by €3 per week.
The Fuel Allowance has been increased by €2, to €22.50 per week.
The Respite Care Grant has been increased to €1700
Family Income Supplement has been increased by €5 per week for one-child families, and €10 per week for families with two or more children.
Other notable changes are as follows:
-Social welfare Christmas bonus will be awarded at 75%.
-Health expenditure will be raised to a pre-crisis level.
-The Free GP Scheme, already available for under-sixes and over-seventies, will be extended to all under-twelves.
-€500m will be allocated to build or buy new homes for social housing
-€414m to fund 14000 houses
-€10m of the proceeds from the sale of Bord Gais Éireann will go to social housing
-Five-hundred modular homes will be provided for emergency accommodation for homeless families and €17m will be allocated for emergency accommodation funding.
-Funds will be made available to recruit and train 600 new Gardai, to fund improved ICT, and to fund the new policing authority.
-€25m will be made available for refugee aid, spent on accommodation, staffing and facilities in resettlement centres, and integration schemes.
-€903m is allocated for defence
-€2m will be made available to a new aero-medical service, which will provide urgent care and peace of mind in rural areas.