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Budget betrays the vulnerable as many left further behind
Budget 2020 failed in its basic task to protect the vulnerable. While TDs will see their salaries rise by about €1,600 in the coming year (€30 a week) many of Ireland’s most vulnerable people will see their welfare payments remain unchanged.
Among other things they will face additional increases in the cost of food as a result of Brexit; they also face higher charges for public transport as a result of increased carbon tax. The choices made by Government in Budget 2020 mean that vulnerable people will see their standard of living fall and they will slip even further behind the rest of society.
The imminence and uncertainty of Brexit provided Government with challenging choices. While Social Justice Ireland welcomes the allocation of resources to a fund that will be available to assist those most affected, we regret the lack of focus on the impact that Brexit would have on the living costs and living standards of low income households.
The cost of living for average Irish households will rise by between €892 and €1,360 a year as a result of Brexit with those on lower incomes being most exposed. The poorest 30% of the population spend a far higher proportion of their income on food. Brexit will hit them hardest while they have the least capacity to absorb an increase in living costs.
If a hard Brexit emerges there is an unavoidable need for a Supplementary Budget to ensure the vulnerable are protected from its inevitable impact.
Social Justice Ireland has continually highlighted the fact that Ireland is a low-tax economy with its total tax-take among the lowest in the EU. The overall impact of Budget 2020 on revenue was a rise of €340 million. We welcome the increase in stamp duty on non-residential property for which we have long advocated.
However we regret that Budget 2020 made no progress on introducing an annual assessment of tax expenditures (i.e. breaks). This is extraordinary as these tax breaks amount to approximately 10% of total tax revenue.
In his Budget speech the Minister for Finance highlighted that Government was allocating €2.5 billion to housing. More than €400,000 of this is being spent every day to provide emergency accommodation alone. Yet 5,532 homeless households have no homes to go to. Approximately €2,200 is currently being spent every month to accommodate each of these families in hotels, B&Bs and family hubs.
The scale of the response in Budget 2020 is nowhere near the level required to solve the crisis. Again, the vulnerable are forced to wait as their situation deteriorates.
The Taoiseach claimed that this is a social justice budget. However, there is little evidence to support this claim. Budget 2020 included a number of welcome initiatives. However, it’s failure to protect the vulnerable and to take the ‘bold and new decisions’ required to meet the ‘defining challenge’ of climate change are very disappointing.