Budget 2019 announced by the Fine Gael led Government has been hailed as fair, progressive and sustainable by North Cork Fine Gael Cllr. John Paul O’ Shea.
The financial package is designed specifically with Brexit in mind to protect Cork from the impending withdrawal of the UK from the EU. It also marks the first time since the devastating recession that there is no deficit to burden taxpayers thanks to the careful management of the country’s finances by Fine Gael in recent years.
Cllr. O’ Shea said the 2019 Budget will ultimately put more money in people’s pockets through four key measures:
· A reduction in income taxes and the Universal Social Charge (USC)
· Welfare increases for all weekly recipients
· Reduction in the cost of living
· Pay increases
“I have long argued that workers enter the higher rate of income tax at too low a level of income. Families deserve sustainable wages and to help this, we are increasing the entry point to the higher income tax rate for all earners by €750, from €34,550 to €35,300 for a single worker.
“The third rate of USC is reduced from 4.75pc to 4.5pc to give a further targeted benefit to low and middle level incomes. The hourly minimum wage will be increased to €9.80 and the ceiling of the second USC rate band will be increased from €19,372 to €19,874 in order to ensure that the salary of a full-time worker on the minimum wage will remain outside the top rates of USC.
“There is a €5 increase of all weekly social welfare payments for recipients such as pensioners, lone parents, jobseekers, carers, people with disabilities and widows. A 100pc Christmas bonus will be paid in early December 2018.
“Our society is a caring one and the self-employed will become eligible for jobseeker’s benefit in the final quarter of 2018. A new paid parental leave scheme will be introduced in 2019 to provide two extra weeks’ leave to every parent of a child in their first year. Fine Gael intends to increase this to seven extra weeks over time,” Cllr. O’ Shea said.
“Our countryside is one of our best assets and €55m has been made available to invest in rural towns and villages through the €1bn Rural Regeneration and Development Fund which begins next January. Repairs to our footpaths and roads will be guaranteed from a €40m pot. On top of this, €3.3bn has been set aside for libraries which will support ICT infrastructure upgrades, meeting space technologies and digital learning suites in our public libraries.
“The fight against crime continues and 800 extra Gardaí will be recruited next year while the Garda overtime budget is fixed at €100m. The Garda fleet will be expanded with further capital funding,” added Cllr. O’ Shea.
“Agriculture is facing threats with Brexit posing specific challenges. To support disadvantaged farmers, an additional €57m of current expenditure is being allocated to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2019. €60m in current and capital Brexit related supports will be provided to improve resilience in the farm sector, as along with supporting productivity improvements in the food sector.
“Fine Gael will next year invest more in housing (€2.4bn) than any previous Government has done in a single year. For those who need social housing, Budget 2019 will help to deliver 10,000 new social homes through new builds, acquisition and leasing programmes. A total of 5,000 adults and their children will be taken out of homelessness.
“We will invest an additional €1.2bn in health, facilitating a range of additional services including initiatives proposed under Sláintecare. These include a €25 increase in the weekly income threshold for GP Visit cards; a 50 cent reduction in prescription charges from €2.00 to €1.50 for all medical card holders over the age of 70; and a €10 reduction in the monthly Drugs Payment Scheme threshold from €134 to €124.
“With Brexit looming, never has our education system been so critical for our future success and we will continue to invest in our people. A €10.8bn investment in education, the largest ever Budget for this sector, will allow for 372 teaching posts and 950 special needs assistants to cater for growth in student population and additional special classes next year. There will also be almost 3,500 additional undergraduate places funded next year which will present more choices for students from Cork.”
“Brexit is the political, economic and diplomatic challenge of our generation. Fine Gael has been clear on our objectives, robust in our negotiations and thorough in our planning. We will remain at the heart of the European Union and open to the world. Cork will be well prepared for Brexit as the Budget was especially prepared bearing this in mind,” Cllr. O’Shea concluded.