Tipperary TD and Minister of State Alan Kelly said there are many measures in the Budget that he is not happy to support but that he has few choices.
And despite criticism of the Labour Party, he claims there is a real Labour stamp on the Budget.
He said - “There is no doubt that this is a tough budget and that there are difficult measures in this budget that will affect everyone. When you have to take out €3.5bn it was always going to. I am not happy to have to support many of these measures, but I am left with very few choices.
“I know that there are many contentious issues in the budget such as those in Child Benefit and the Respite Care Grant. While the reduction in child benefit will be difficult for many families, the universal nature of the payment was maintained. This is an important statement of our values as a country that assistance should be provided to families to support child rearing.
I know that there is a lot of talk about promises that the Labour party made before the last general election. We could have kept those promises if we were voted in as the majority party, this didn’t happen, so we can’t implement all the policies we want to. I really wish we could.
“I know the cuts to the respite care grant are difficult, however the numbers in receipt of a Carer’s Allowance payment from the Department have increased by more than 150% in the last 10 years from 20,000 in 2001 to 52,000 in 2011. Expenditure on the Carer’s Allowance Scheme has increased by almost 220% in the same period. The rate of the Respite Care Grant has almost tripled in the last ten years from €635 in 2002 to €1,700 in 2012. By making a modest change the Respite Care Grant we have protected all possible cuts in the half carer’s allowance rate.
“On the positive side of things the class sizes for primary and secondary (free) schools have been protected, while the pupil teacher ratio in private schools which I was so outspoken on has been increased. It takes the first steps towards tackling privilege in our education system. Special Needs Assistants numbers were protected, disadvantaged schools were protected. 900 teaching posts are being created. Over 6,000 childcare places will be provided for low income families. €2m will be provided for the school meals programme for disadvantaged schools. Investment has been set aside for a new approach to child poverty.
“For the first time, this budget squares up to the wealthy in our society and asks them to contribute more. This budget contains ten specific measures targeting wealth, worth more than half a billion euro. On top of this I would have preferred to see a 3% levy on those earning over €100k and so would my party. We advocated that and pushed for it but we are only one third of the Government. The other two thirds ie Fine Gael would only accept it if a quid pro quo were cuts to Carers, Jobseekers and OAPs. We in the Labour party could not support that so instead we negotiated the half a billion in tax measures.
“These measures include a mansion tax on properties worth over €1 million, an increase in the universal social charge on massive pensions, making all sources of income liable for PRSI – including the private work of hospital consultants, profits from shares, rents and other sources of wealth that have never been subject to PRSI before. It generates more tax from capital acquisitions and gains and finally hits the massive pensions pots.
“This €500 million wealth tax package allows the Government to protect the disadvantaged. DEIS Schools have been protected, and Community Employment schemes are to be expanded by 2,000 places. The Labour Party was able to secure an additional €150 million for Social Welfare, and Social Welfare rates have once again been protected.
“This budget includes a series of stimulus measures which will create badly needed jobs in the construction sector, as well as 10,000 much-needed new places on Employment Programmes.
“Joan Burton’s commitment to create 10,000 new places on employment schemes will deliver for individuals, and for communities struggling with high unemployment. New places on Community Employment, Job Bridge and a new Social Employment Scheme run by local authorities will help thousands of unemployed people develop the skills they need to secure full-time employment.
“I believe that there is a clear Labour stamp on this budget, protecting fairness, there is no doubt that if Fine Gael were there without the Labour Party, it would be a lot harsher budget”.
“These decisions were not taken lightly but they bring us to 85% of the adjustment we have to make – which will allow us to recover our national sovereignty and send the Troika home.
“Though our leverage is limited by party size and our choices dictated by Troika commitments such as the property tax, Labour has made the difference in this budget”.