Irish Finance Minister defends ‘playing it safe’ Budget
Paschal Donohoe was responding to calls 24 hours after unveiling Budget2020.
Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has defended his Budget against accusations he played too safe.
Mr Donohoe said he needed to find a balance between preparing the country for a no-deal Brexit while also ensuring people got something back in the Budget.
“If I stood up yesterday and announced a Budget that was all about a no-deal Brexit, I think the needs of many citizens would have been slighted,” he said.
Mr Donohoe said he had to be cautious with tax cuts for workers and “the squeezed middle” as he did not want to see a scenario where they would have to be reversed if the economy was to suffer.
“For those that are disappointed about the Budget yesterday, I would ask them to consider the changes I made in the last two budgets in relation to GP care, funding the National Childcare Scheme and prescription charges,” he said.
“What I would also like to say to those citizens is that we all remember what it was like when there was a whole suite of measures that had to be undone all over again.”
Mr Donohoe said he did not want to see a situation where tax reductions for workers had to be reversed.
“I’m really determined to try and avoid doing that all over again,” he said.
Speaking to members of the public who rang into a post Budget phone-in show on RTE radio, he defended against accusations the Budget did little to help single people.
A builder who described himself as a single worker said he had worked on the National Children’s Hospital.
He accused Mr Donohoe of spending money “left, right and centre” and doing nothing for people who “get up at 5.45am and go to bed at 9.30pm”.
Mr Donohoe said tax credits for single people were changed in the previous two budgets and that he had to plan his Budget with a hard Brexit in mind.
He added: “I’ve put tax changes in place in my two previous budgets that have been equivalent to 1,500 euro where I’ve increased the point of which you pay the higher rate of income tax.
“In this budget we are better off playing it safe and dealing with a huge risk that we might have to deal with in a few weeks time.
“The changes that have happened over the last two budgets have benefited single people as much as those who are married and of course, whether you’re single or married, my priority is to make sure that if we end up with Brexit going badly wrong, we’re better protected than we otherwise might be.”
Sinead, a mother-of-four children, one of whom has special needs, told the minister that nothing in Tuesday’s Budget benefits her family.
There was only an increase in the cost of heating a home and getting to our work places. Sinead (radio caller)
The paediatric nurse said there were no increases to tax credits or child allowances.
“There was only an increase in the cost of heating a home and getting to our work places,” she said.
“With all this talk about Brexit looming and a substantial sum set aside in this budget for Brexit while we are still coming out of a recession, you are punishing us in in preparation for the next one.
“Minister, what is in this budget for me and my family?”
Mr Donohoe said: “We will be rolling out in the coming weeks a National Child Care scheme to try to give families, who are at work, more options in relation to how their children are looked after and to try to deal with a lower cost.
“What I respectfully say to you Sinead, though, is that no single budgets is capable of making much of a difference to you, as overall that a well run economy is.
“At the end of the day it’s having an economy that’s creating income.”
Mr Donohoe also defended measures put in place in the Budget for carers.
A mother called Tracey said she works “ridiculous hours” caring for her daughter Willow who is incapacitated but said carers have got a raw deal in the Budget.
“I’m not asking to be paid for the hour, changes to means-tested and the needs of the child need to be addressed,” she said.
“We should introduce needs-testing, not means-testing,” she said.
Mr Donohoe said carer’s allowance has the highest level of income disregard within social protection payments.