Thursday, 10 April 2014
12. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the gross voted current expenditure for 2007 and 2011; the estimated gross voted expenditure for 2014; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16615/14]
Gross voted total expenditure in 2007 was €56.4 billion, in 2011 it was €57.4 billion, and for 2014 the estimate is just under €53 billion. Gross voted current expenditure in 2007 was €48.6 billion, in 2011 it was €52.8 billion, and the estimate for 2014 is €49.6 billion, as I have stated previously.
The Deputy is specifically asking about expenditure in 2007, 2011 and 2014. Any analysis focusing solely on those particular years masks expenditure trends in the period, but I think the Deputy knows that. In particular, there were large increases in expenditure between 2007 and 2009 and very challenging fiscal corrections have been required since then which necessitated significant expenditure consolidation. Voted spending has been reduced by more than €10 billion from the 2009 peak of over €63 billion to the present level of €53 billion. The consolidation measures this Government has introduced have ensured Ireland's successful exit from the EU-IMF programme of financial support last year. This consolidation has been achieved while responding to increased needs for public services and supports - and this is evident across the three largest-spending sectors of welfare, health and education.
The live register increased from 159,000 in January 2007 to 470,000 at its peak in July 2011, and we have now seen a reduction of that level to just over 390,000 in March 2014.
There has also been increased pressure on other primary social protection payments such as pensions, working age income supports, working age employment supports and illness supports. These pressures are reflected in the allocation of €19.6 billion for social protection in 2014, which is €4.2 billion above the amount required in 2007.
Consolidation of health expenditure has taken place in a context of significant demands for services. The numbers of medical and GP cards have increased from more than 1.2 million cards in 2007 to an expected outturn of 2 million at the end of last year, a significant increase of 700,000 cards.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
While funding for the Department of Education and Skills Vote increased between 2007 and 2014 by €700 million, this is primarily due to the national training fund and FÁS transferring to the Vote in 2011. Over this period there have been increased demographic pressures on services, with the number of students at primary and secondary school increasing from approximately 814,000 in 2007 to almost 890,000 in 2013.
The efforts of all Ministers and Departments to ensure expenditure targets continue to be met, and that public expenditure remains sustainable, have enabled the Government to focus on protecting and improving public services within the constraints set by the overall national and EU level fiscal frameworks.
What the Minister has basically told me is that whereas the Government always speaks about a huge increase in expenditure, by the time it came into office the hard decisions had already been made to pull it back to €52 billion. Is this correct? The Government only had to make decisions to reduce it to €49 billion. The Minister gave me a whole lot of information I had not sought. When the Government took over the reins its challenge was to bring it from €52 billion to €49 billion and not from the peak figure because we had already addressed this issue. It is still higher than the 2007 figure. Does the Minister accept this?
For the second occasion the Deputy wants to play with figures. In 2007, as I told him, voted current expenditure was €48.6 billion at a time when unemployment payments totalled €159 million.
This is the reality. Unemployment figures were marching towards 500,000 when the previous Government marched out of office. Needless to say we had to pay for this, and because people's incomes had collapsed the number of medical cards increased from 1.2 million to 2 million and we had to provide money for this also. The Deputy stated the previous Government had done the heavy lifting in 2011. We were in government in 2011. The previous Government passed a budget and then marched out the door. Who implemented it? Who had to do the heavy lifting on that very difficult budget, and argue it and go through it? We had to make all the difficult decisions at the same time as preserving basic services for people. The representation of the truth in the fashion the Deputy wants will not cut any ice with the citizenry in the country.