Budget 2016 – An opportunity to ease the burden on squeezed classes

In the second of our pre-budget series Longford based Independent Barbara Smyth outlines the measures she would like to see implemented to improve the lot of families and those struggling to cope.

Continuous austerity budgets have seen the most vulnerable people in our society having to accept being the ones who suffered the most. Working families who have always paid their taxes, mortgages, bills and contributed most to our economy have seen their disposable income vanish. Child poverty increased while the rich simply got richer.

As a mother, wife, community worker and small business owner, like most families, I have struggled to make ends meet. I have struggled to spread out payments to get my children back to school. We have gone without a salary some weeks due to our clients simply not having paid on time. At times I have gone shopping and silently prayed my debit card was accepted. I am tired living this way and I know most people are. If I had my hands on Budget ’16 here are just a few measures I would take to help make the squeezed classes lives better.

• Transfer liability for ALL outstanding bailout repayments that relate to bailed out banks to those institutions directly. These banks are now posting profits and paying their executives outlandish bonuses, let them service the loans that bailed them out and remove this debt from our sovereign debt. It’s time for bankers to take responsibility instead of bonuses.

• I would ensure tax loopholes regarding corporation tax are closed. There are too many large wealthy companies paying only a fraction of the 12.5% corporation tax rate. We are losing billions as a result.

• Irish Water must be disbanded and the provision of fresh water and waste water handling revert back to the local authorities, funded by central taxation via budget allocations previously removed by former environment minister Phil Hogan.

• The decision to cut the lone parents payment for over 7’s and not introduce suitable childcare solutions was contemptible. I propose that lone parents, taking up employment, of children over 7, be offered up to 10hrs free after school or preschool childcare.

• Reform the unfair motor tax system. People who cannot afford to upgrade to a 2008 or newer car are being unfairly asked to pay more motor tax than those who can afford a newer car. I propose a flat rate motor tax be introduced, irrespective of engine size or emissions, of €250 per vehicle with an 5c per litre levy on retail diesel & petrol. This is a fairer approach, as the more you drive, the more you pay.

• I would like to see excessive pensions for past TD’s slashed. I would Like to see the whole government expenses ‘industry’ overhauled and again slashed and that includes local authorities.

• Local authorities must be funded to bring void and derelict properties within their portfolio up to standard and reduce the scandalous housing waiting list catastrophe which is escalating nationwide while properties sit idle and families are without a home. NAMA must release so called “ghost estates” into public ownership whereby local authorities can complete them and use them to deal with the crisis.

• Private rental sector: The consumer price index and our prevailing rate of inflation must be factors enshrined in legislation when it comes to governing rent increases in the private rented property sector. Tenants need to be able to plan based on facts that can’t change. This is a fair approach for both landlords and tenants. This would also go a long way to helping our homeless crisis as people at risk of homelessness or exiting homelessness would have the added security of rent transparency that reflects the true performance of our economy.

• On a day where another homeless man lost his life on our streets, a national body to tackle homelessness and understand the issues faced by people who find themselves homeless must be created. Many of the NGO’s that work day and night to help people who find themselves homeless need to be supported and real solutions must be found to deal with this incredible crisis, now. The situation is such that we actually need a Minister for homelessness.

• I would like to see an end to Job-bridge and other degrading schemes and an introduction of a real living wage. This gives people a chance to escape the poverty net and the effects of this are far reaching for the economy and for society.

• The derogation of duty on all bio fuels should be reintroduced. This is an industry sector in its own right and Irish farmers could benefit hugely from the renewable nature of this product, creating an indigenous Irish motor fuel industry that’s self sustaining and job creating. This means less expensive fuel and job creation in one go. E85 (85% Ethanol and 15% petroleum) as well as biodiesel fuel products are suitable for use in most private and commercial vehicles.

• Local Property Tax: Property tax to be abolished for owner occupier homes. Second and consecutive homes should be introduced to a the property tax on a sliding scale increasing as the property value increases. All local authority housing should be exempted from this tax regardless of value.

• Tax capital gains at the prevailing rate of income tax for the individual concerned. This is a fairer way to ensure that people who benefit from the disposal of assets are making a more balance contribution to society.

• Expansion of cancer screening services to reduce the number of people presenting at late stages of preventable and curable conditions which place a huge burden on our health service. The existing screening services are fantastic and have saved thousands of lives, but we must introduce new and diverse approaches to encapsulate all forms of cancer into early screening programmes nationwide and create new centres of excellence.

• Our health service needs radical reform in order to make it fit for purpose. The unions need to play a key role in this and lifting the embargo on recruitment alone will not fix the structural problems that exist.

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