Wednesday 23 October 2019

Independent TDs make last-ditch Budget demands


Denis Naughten
Denis Naughten
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Funding to cut waiting times for home help and carer's allowance, an extension to the Help-to-Buy scheme, changes to Fair Deal, and support for Bord na Móna workers are among last-ditch Budget demands by Independent TDs who back the Government.

Junior rural development minister Seán Canney said he was not looking for anything which wasn't "common sense" and added: "I expect to see these things being addressed in the Budget."

Meanwhile, former communications minister Denis Naughten - who votes with the Fine Gael-led minority Government on a case-by-case basis - said that if they want his support, they'd listen to what he wanted.

Next week's Budget will be the Independent TDs' last chance to claim influence in spending decisions ahead of the next general election and they are making a string of demands of Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Galway East TD Mr Canney said he wanted more resources to go towards cutting waiting lists for home help hours and those receiving the carer's allowance.

He said it was "not a big ask" and would end up saving money as it would reduce pressure on hospital beds and the Fair Deal nursing home scheme if older people were supported in their own homes.

Mr Canney also wants to see a reduction in pupil-teacher ratios in small rural schools and an increase in the capitation grant paid per student across the country because, as he put it, there is "severe pressure on schools with rising costs".

He is looking for the Help-to-Buy scheme for first-time buyers to be extended beyond the end of the year and wants more funds for retro- fitting existing homes as part of efforts to tackle climate change.

Mr Canney also wants to see measures to ensure a "just transition" for Bord na Móna workers as peat-fired power plants are phased out.

Mr Naughten, a Roscommon-Galway TD, says €30m should be set aside to help Bord na Móna workers amid fears that almost 2,000 are at risk of losing their jobs.

He is seeking one million additional home-help hours and a change in the rules for the Fair Deal scheme so residents who choose to rent out vacant houses are not penalised. He says this would free up thousands of homes to help with the housing crisis.

Mr Naughten told the Irish Independent the only new money he was seeking was for the extra home help hours, which he said would "take pressure off overcrowded emergency departments".

He said the other asks would involve "reallocations of existing monies and related policy changes".

Mr Naughten said: "If the Government wants my support, they will engage with me in terms of how they're going to frame the Budget."

Irish Independent

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