Wednesday, 13 October 2021
Budget 2022: Statements (Resumed)
Ollie Crowe (Fianna Fail)
I thank the Minister of State for attending. I also thank the Minister, Deputy Michael McGrath, for his support in recent weeks and months. There is a lot of positive news in the budget and I welcome the increased rates for core social protection schemes in particular. Similarly, the recruitment of additional special needs education teachers and assistants will surely be welcomed by all, as will the recruitment of a significant number of additional gardaí, who are especially needed in inner city Galway, where I come from, and throughout the county. The significant and substantial investments being made in health and housing are, likewise, positive and necessary.I receive representations in respect of waiting lists on a daily basis, as I am sure do all Members of this House. In that context, the €250 million being targeted at reducing those lists is very welcome.
The ambitious Housing for All plan has been backed by financial commitments in budget 2022, with €2.5 billion aimed at increasing social housing next year, as outlined by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy O'Brien, in recent months. The record investment in childcare reflects a turning point in the State's approach to the early years education and childcare sector. In west Galway, childcare is one of the most challenging aspects of life for families with young children. While the commitment to ensuring that there is no fee increase for parents will come as a great relief to those families, we must do more on childcare.
Budget 2022 provides the first increase in the SUSI grant for more than a decade, as well as a broadening of the eligibility criteria for same. The budget also provides half-price public transport for those aged between 19 and 23. These are measures which will greatly assist students. They are hugely progressive and will have a very positive impact.
I also welcome the increase in the carer's allowance as outlined by previous speakers and the broader eligibility for that allowance. Carers provide enormous support for their loved ones and deserve the support of the State in turn. I am delighted to see that move and also believe that carers should be included in any gratitude shown to front-line workers.
From a business standpoint, there is lots of very welcome news in this budget, particularly the aviation sector support scheme and the recovery package aimed at festivals and the night life economy. Obviously, Galway is well known for the various brilliant festivals that are held there in normal years and in that context, I am especially pleased that the Government has recognised the need for assistance going forward. The extension of the employment wage subsidy scheme is a welcome move which will greatly enhance the ability of businesses to rebound from Covid-19 and survive a crisis that was not of their own making. Likewise, the waiver of commercial rates up to the end of 2021 is a significant boost for SMEs in particular.
Senator Casey has already referred to the VAT rate for the tourism and hospitality sector. As Members will be aware, the rate was reduced to 9% in autumn 2020 and will remain at that level until September 2022. I am sure there will be many discussions on that VAT rate in the meantime. I am sure the Minister of State appreciates that both sectors have been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic and are facing a challenging period ahead. Most European countries apply a VAT rate of 9% on tourism and hospitality. There are strong concerns across both sectors that if our VAT rate increases to 13.5% in August it will be a significant blow to their recovery and will have a negative impact on their competitiveness vis-à-visother European countries which apply a 9% rate. The rate is projected to increase by 50% next year. I ask the Minister of State to offer his view on this matter and to advise whether there is a possibility that the reduction in the VAT rate for hospitality and tourism will be extended.