The announcement of Budget 2019 on Tuesday led to mixed reactions from both politicians and citizens alike.
Politicians such as Deputy Frances Fitzgerald (FG) hailed Budget 2019 as “fair, progressive and sustainable”, whilst Deputy Joan Burton (Lab) said it is “one of the most nakedly political and election budgets” she has seen.
The Universal Social Charge will fall to 4.5% – a decrease of 0.25% – on incomes between €19,874 and €70,004.
It will mean meagre savings for most; for someone on a €30,000 salary, it will mean an annual saving of €39, or €17 per year for someone on €20,000.
The home carer tax credit will increase by €300 to €1,500, and for those who are self-employed, the earned income tax credit will be increase by €200 to €1,350.
All weekly social welfare payments will increase by €5 from March, with the Christmas bonus restored to a double payment.
There will be two weeks of paid parental leave for every parent of a child under one year from November 2019, to increase to seven weeks over a number of years.
THE chair of housing charity Threshold, Aideen Hayden, said the “absence of measures” to address the housing crisis in the budget is “disappointing”.
Hayden said: “We are concerned that they will make little impact on the scale of the problem.”
In Budget 2019, the allocation for the national housing programme increased by €470m, with €1.25bn for the delivery of 10,000 new social homes in 2019 through construction, acquisition and leasing also to be invested.
There will be an extra €121m for the Housing Assistance Payment, and €60m extra in Capital spending, much of which is targeted at emergency accommodation.
There will also be 100% mortgage interest relief for landlords – a move prompting criticism from housing activists.
Eoin O Faogain from Take Back The City said: “Another budget in which profiteering off misery is encouraged. No matter how long [FF/FG are] in power, they’ll never change course.”
Budget 2019 features a 6.7% increase in funding that will allow for 1,300 additional posts in schools in 2019. There is also a €25 increase in back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance rates.
An additional 950 special needs assistants are to be recruited in 2019, alongside a €196m Capital investment in education.
There will also be an extra €300m for third-level education up to 2024, and funding for early learning and childcare will go up to €90m.
However, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said Budget 2019 fails to address the national funding crisis.
ASTI president Breda Lynch said: “At a time of growing student numbers, curriculum change in schools and significantly-increased teacher workload, our second-level schools will continue to have a lower ratio of teachers to students … than they did in 2009.”
There will be an increase of €1.05bn in health funding, as well as a €25 increase in the weekly income threshold for GP visit cards.
A 9% increase for mental health services will also be introduced next year, meaning €184m will be invested. Disability services will get an extra €150m.
Deputy Louise O’Reilly (SF) said Budget 2019 does nothing to relieve overcrowding in hospitals.
She said: “The budget has done nothing to address the capacity issues affecting the health service.
“Our health service needs real investment, sustainable investment into the future, but Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have not done this.”