Tuesday 21 November 2017

This was no surgical scalpel, Noonan knifed us in the heart

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

THE main victims of the savage budget measures are families, homeowners and pensioners, all of whom are facing steep increases in the cost of living next year.

Property tax will add hundreds of euro to household outgoings, with owners of modest houses worth just €200,000 facing annual bills of €405.

Only those in deep financial distress will escape the tax, although there is an exemption for first-time buyers and those who purchase new, unoccupied homes, who will be exempt until 2016.

Families already struggling to make ends meet have also been hit with a series of body blows.

As predicted, child benefit has been cut for the first two children, with steeper cuts of €18 for the third and €20 for the fourth and subsequent children. That means that a mother of three will be €456 poorer next year.

On top of the cuts in child benefit, there are also increases in the prescription charge for those on lower incomes and an increase in the monthly cap for families from €10 to €19.50, while the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance has been reduced by €50, hitting those already on the breadline.

Women planning a family will also be forced to pay tax on maternity benefit. This will affect 48,000 women, yielding savings of €40m a year.

Workers in the public sector have every reason to feel nervous, as the Government wants to reduce numbers by 4,500 by the end of 2014. This is on top of the 33,000 jobs already lost since 2008.

Again, the low-paid worker is back in the tax net, with the exemption for PRSI removed. This means those earning the least will be hit for an additional €5 a week.

Carers have also been badly affected, subjected to a draconian 20pc cut in the respite care grant. This falls from €1,700 a year to €1,375. It affects those looking after elderly or infirm parents, relatives or spouses.

Motorists have also been dealt a double whammy, with both motor tax and VRT on the rise. Those who chose to buy greener, environmentally friendly cars were hit with a hike in their annual motor tax bills of up to €40, while the cost will increase by €126 for drivers of older cars. VRT on new cars also increases.

But the worst hit are wealthier pensioners, with couples earning up to €1,400 a week losing their entitlement to medical cards. This will affect up to 20,000 OAPs, but some will retain a GP-only card.

The same cohort enjoyed a reduced rate of universal social charge on their pensions, but this will go for those with an annual income of €60,000.

The poorest pensioners are also hit with reductions in the telephone, gas and electricity allowances, along with a hike in the cost of coal and briquettes.

Irish Independent

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