Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Financial Resolutions - Budget Statement 2020
It may not have been. I may have the country wrong. It was Russia, and it is not a bastion of anything good but at least it can provide cheap public transport.
Instead of punishing people with carbon taxes, we should reduce people's fuel bills with a major national insulation installation programme. The current system is grossly unfair for people living in public housing as they cannot retrofit their own home and they must wait for the council to do it. The council is doing approximately 2% of the housing stock per year in my area and I suspect that rate is similar everywhere else. People in public housing have no control whatever over the building energy rating of their home or the capacity to microgenerate electricity. It is completely regressive and unjust to impose carbon tax increases on people like that.
The Government could have invested in developing renewable energy and in universities so they could develop new forms of renewable energy. Our universities are chronically underfunded and most of the research and development resourcing from the Government goes to the big multinational corporations through the research and development tax credit. It runs at approximately €700 million per year and it will mostly benefit the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple. That is public money just as much as anything declared today. That €700 million in tax relief, which is mostly used by those types of companies, will not boost the domestic economy or our universities. It will not help to develop renewable energy resources. It goes to Apple when it devises the iPhone 11 upgrade and then an iPhone 12 after that. Is that what we need or do we want money to be put into developing renewable energy or afforestation, which we discussed last week? We are consistently failing to meet our afforestation targets when we know there is a benefit to all these things. For every tree planted, we would pay less in fines to the European Union but we consistently fail to hit our targets in afforestation and in developing a sustainable forestry industry.
Disability services should be close to the Minister of State's heart. Various disability groups asked for a package of €211 million extra per year over the next five years for community disability services in particular. In the budget, €25 million has been provided for those services, which is a tenth of what was requested by the disability community. That is pathetic, especially against a background of us ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UNCRPD. Where is the extra investment for universal accessibility? Where is the funding for special needs assessments for people with special needs? It was not mentioned, as far as I can see, in the health section of the budget. The Government is in breach of the law when people are waiting two or three years for assessment of children with special needs. The law stipulates that such assessments should be done within six months. The Government has failed to support people with disability in this country. There is a pathetic amount allocated for housing adaptation grants and there has been no increase in the disability allowance or carer's allowance. That is absolutely shocking and, again, it is effectively a cut for people with a disability.
There is an extra €29 million in funding for Tusla, which sounds good for the children and youth affairs sector. However, I have raised the plight of a service in my area, the Cottage Home family support service, which provides vital and needed interventions for families and children at risk. It closed this week because it could not get €200,000. I have raised this case repeatedly with the Minister and the service begged for the money. It will cost the State much more money if those kids and their families do not get that support. They will turn up somewhere else in the system with much greater needs for the lack of €200,000. Even at this point, on behalf of that service, I ask for this funding. It needs €400,000 to keep the service running and it will raise €200,000 itself. Will the Government give €200,000 to the Cottage Home service in order to keep that vital service going? We always speak of early intervention etc. with children but does it mean anything at all? All the referrals to that service come from Tusla.
As it is, in effect, a branch of Tusla, I ask the Government to give it the €200,000 it needs to keep going.
What about childcare services? The national childcare scheme was announced in 2016. The Government has announced it every year for four years and it is still not open. That is typical of what the Government does; there are great headlines and statements along the lines of "we are doing this, that and the other". In many cases people are now paying childcare costs equivalent to almost two mortgages, yet the scheme the Government announced four years ago is still not open and when it does open, what people will get will be pretty derisory and certainly not compensate for the dramatic increase in childcare costs that have ensued in the period since the initial announcement of the scheme.
It is asked whether it is possible to do all of these things for which the left, the socialists, are asking and whether the money is available. The answer is "Yes" because, against all the threats and difficulties, the reality is that Ireland is richer than it has ever been. National household wealth has increased by €300 million in the past five years. The problem is that all of that wealth is concentrated in the hands of the richest 10% in our society who are getting wealthier and wealthier but pay derisory levels of tax and the big corporations which benefit from a myriad of tax loopholes. The committee on which I sit has been studying these tax loopholes and estimates that there is €10 billion to €15 billion worth of what are called tax expenditures but which are, in fact, tax loopholes to give money back to corporations which then make a lot of profit. If we were to introduce a minimum effective corporate tax rate, we could receive €4 billion, €5 billion or €6 billion extra a year in revenues which we could use for housing, Brexit protection measures, the public health service, children and youth affairs and to meet all other dire needs. We could use it to give workers a little increase in their incomes and a break on USC. We could introduce a financial transactions tax on the billions of euro worth of trading in derivatives and shares through the IFSC every year. However, the parties to such transactions will not accept even a 0.1% tax on that trading, which is what the European Union proposes. We could introduce many other measures in a very wealthy country to redistribute some of the wealth towards the less well-off, working people, the provision of affordable housing, a decent public health service and the just transition to the climate action we need to prevent a climate disaster.