Tuesday, 21 March 2023
Finance Bill 2023: Second Stage
Michael Collins (Cork South West, Independent) | Oireachtas source
Many areas where people are struggling were not covered by the Finance Bill, for example, energy costs. While the Government has given a rebate on electricity bills on two previous occasions, which was very much welcomed, there is no doubt about that, it is desperately needed still. On further energy savings for businesses, they are getting a few quid but it is nothing when bills are €10,000. Businesspeople are saying to me that is putting many of them out of business. They need further, serious aid. The Government needs to tackle the energy companies. It is failing in its duty to do that. It is as if the Government is aiding and abetting them in this.
The fuel allowance is coming to an end as far as many elderly people are concerned. I plead with the Minister of State to extend it for an extra period because a lot of people are still feeling the cold and found it very difficult this winter due to the price of fuel.
I appreciate that the VAT rate for hospitality did not go up from 9% to 13.5%. That would have finished many cafés and restaurants. The Government needs to look at that matter completely. Some people are price gouging, such as hotels in the city, and may be making fortunes but ordinary people on the ground, for example, ordinary family-run hotels in west Cork are not doing that. The current VAT rate needs to continue.
I am very saddened that the reduction in excise duty on fuel will end, as if fuel was not dear enough. The Government always grabs and looks for a tax take on fuel so it can get its pet projects across the line in so many places.
The means test for carer's allowance should be abolished. This is an area the Government needs to look at. If an elderly person is being 100% looked after at home by his spouse, just because her husband is working somewhere else - or the other way round - she cannot get carer's allowance because of her husband's income, even though she is carrying out the work at home. It is outrageous and not fair.
On other issues, such as roads, an independent report on west Cork roads shows living proof that County Cork is getting the least amount of funding for roads and for many other grants that are going. Nothing has been done on bypasses for Inishannon and Bandon, the northern and southern relief roads, or Bantry and other such areas.
One issue that has already been raised is that of the vulture funds. While this is not the proper debate to bring that matter up - it should be brought up during questions - I will raise the issue of O'Donovan's Hotel in Clonakilty and the crisis situation it faces. I met with the family that owns the hotel. It is a brilliantly run hotel that, along with other brilliantly run businesses throughout west Cork, has been absolutely destroyed by the bank, initially, and then everyday finances. The Government should stand up and support these businesses. I plead with the Minister of State, and I will plead further with other senior officials in the Government, to step in and put everyday finance into the proper place it should be, tell the vulture funds to back off, and sit the hell down and talk to these people, because they are trying to rip the heart out of Clonakilty. They will not be allowed do that. The people of west Cork will stop them if the Government fails in its duty to do so. It supports these vulture funds. There is no point in Government Deputies screaming in the Chamber against this when they support these vulture funds in the first place by supporting the banks to do this, even though the Government is the majority shareholder.