Date Released: 14 October 2014
SIPTU President, Jack O’Connor has said that Budget 2015 contains a number of positive measures but represents a missed opportunity to tackle the water charges controversy comprehensively.
Jack O’Connor said: “There are a number of positive measures in Budget 2015. Apart from beginning to pave the way for rebuilding our public services and alleviating the tax burden, it will provide a degree of stimulus to reinforce job creation and growth.
The public expenditure commitments, including to increase child benefit, living alone allowances and to reinstate part of the Christmas bonus for hard pressed social welfare recipients will help to alleviate the living conditions of some of the most vulnerable in society.
Modest spending increases in health and education, including for new teachers and special needs assistants and additional numbers of gardai will also help relieve severe pressures in these areas.
We welcome, in particular, the positive response to our call earlier this year for a major initiative to deal with the social housing crisis by 2016 and the commitment to invest €1.5 billion in exchequer funding over the next three years is significant in this respect.
On the taxation side, the measures affecting the Universal Social Charge and the marginal rate will offer some respite to low and middle income families.
While the assistance provided for people who are dependant on welfare and those on low incomes to cope with water charges will be a help, as far as they go, the Government has missed an opportunity to resolve the entire issue. The proposed Water Tax Credit is now the best approach but the amount promised in the budget is inadequate.
The refundable water tax credit idea which SIPTU has been promoting would have been sufficient, when taken in conjunction with the fuel allowance, to cover the cost of people’s normal household needs while still preserving the incentive for conservation. We find it inexplicable that it has not been done given the enormously divisive character of the issue at a time when it is imperative to build unity and social cohesion.”