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Friday 18 August 2017

New jobs strategy targets building of schools, homes

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

THE Government will provide more jobs for builders by funding small-scale school building projects and retrofitting of houses as part of its 'Jobs Initiative' tomorrow.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is going to provide an extra €30m which will be used to finance building and repair works in about 380 schools.

The schools had been unsuccessful in their applications for the Summer Works Scheme last month.

Their soon-to-be approved applications are seen as 'shovel-ready projects' that are expected to create about 2,400 direct building jobs and 480 indirect jobs.

Each project is expected to last around two months.

Funding

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton confirmed yesterday the Jobs Initiative would also include extra funding for the retrofitting of houses to make them more energy efficient -- which will create more building jobs.

There have been more than 100,000 job losses in the construction industry over the past three years.

The Jobs Initiative was originally described as a 'Jobs Budget', but the Government made the name change to reassure the public that it would not contain further tax increases.

There are also suggestions the Department of Enterprise has explored the possibility of increasing the value of research and development tax credits for multinationals.

But it is understood that the Revenue Commissioners expressed reservations about the potential cost of the measure, and doubts about whether it would deliver extra investment.

A spokesman for Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said he had made a detailed submission seeking the inclusion of a wide range of proposals in the Jobs Initiative. "We're hopeful that as many as possible will be included," he said.

Fianna Fail public expenditure spokesman Michael McGrath warned that the Government was going to pay for the Jobs Initiative by putting a levy on the pensions of 750,000 private sector workers to generate €450m per year.

"It appears the Government intends to fund this by raiding the pockets of anyone with a private pension fund, no matter how small it is and no matter how difficult their own financial situation is," he said.

The Department of Finance said the proposal for a levy on private sector pensions was put forward -- by Fine Gael -- in advance of the general election.

"The levy on pension funds will allow recipients of past tax relief to make a contribution to assist those who are looking for jobs," a spokesman said.

The pension levy will not be applied to the pensions of either serving or retired public sector workers.

But the department said that existing public sector workers had already taken an average pay cut of 14pc -- which would reduce their pensions in the future.

And it said that the pensions of retired public sector workers had been cut by 4pc in the last Budget.

The other measures in the Jobs Initiative include a cut in Employers' PRSI for low-paid workers, a cut in the lower rate of VAT and an internship scheme for graduates.

Irish Independent

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