Fine Gael touts public sector and tax reform
With the Government's plans for swingeing cuts four days away, Fine Gael set out a three-pronged approach to tackling the stricken economy.
The main opposition party's budget focuses on job creation, radical public sector reform and tax changes to turn around the Exchequer deficit.
Key proposals from Fine Gael:
- Defer income tax rises to after 2011 and limit changes to bring in about €1bn extra. No change in standard or top rates or corporation tax;
- Slash the number of TDs and Senators by 79;
- Close Fas and the Health Service Executive and abolish 145 quangos;
- More emphasis on closing tax loopholes - suspend property- based relief, tighten rules on exiles and cut relief on pension plans expect for middle income homes. Target extra tax from those on generous occupational pensions;
- The party claimed there is €3bn of social welfare fraud a year which could be targeted through a single Payments and Entitlements system;
- More than double the planned reduction in public servants, taking 30,000 out of the sector and reduce the Civil Service by one third by creating "shared services operations";
- Protect the old age pension, and payments to widows, the blind, disabled people and carers;
- End the €10 travel tax and pump €10m into a one-off marketing drive for state agencies to restore Ireland's battered business reputation around the world;
- Cut employers' costs by abolishing the lower 8.5pc rate of PRSI on staff earning below €356 a week for at least three years;
- No minimum wage cut;
- Cut the lower 13.5pc rate of VAT to re-direct consumer spending away from imports and into labour-intensive services such as trades, restaurants, hotels and newspapers.
- End the home insulation grant scheme in 2013 to force demand into a tight two-year period;
- Put together a "fairer" tax on property.