Sunday 20 October 2019

What's in store: Brexit, green issues and families at heart of Paschal's plan

The leaks so far

It’s that time again: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe presenting his Budget last October.
Photo: Gerry Mooney
It’s that time again: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe presenting his Budget last October. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

'The family budget': Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe wants to present Budget 2020 as a giveaway for families ahead of a general election.

It will include initiatives such as free GP care for under-eights in 2020 and free dental care for under-sixes. There will also funding for two weeks' paid parental leave for each new parent, which becomes available from November 1.

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'THE BREXIT BUDGET'

The Budget plan is being designed on the presumption of a disorderly Brexit on October 31.

So while the current plan is to have a surplus next year, the Government is prepared to run a deficit and borrow up to €4.5bn to bail out industries such as agriculture. A number of ministers have told the Irish Independent they have had proposals shot down by Mr Donohoe because they are not Brexit-related.

'THE GREEN BUDGET'

The Government will finally bite the bullet and raise carbon tax, although not by the €10 per tonne rate many expected. Mr Donohoe is likely to settle for a figure between €6-€8. This would mean an average 60-litre fill of petrol (including the existing VAT), may rise by almost €1.02 and an average 60-litre fill of diesel could rise by almost €1.18. A string of other green initiatives will also be announced.

MOTORING

As part of the drive to force us into electric or hybrid vehicles, the Government will bring forward changes to Vehicle Registration Tax.

These will make petrol and diesel cars more expensive to buy. The incentives currently in place for buying EVs are under review.

HEALTH

The Department of Health is on course to need yet another bailout this year of around €300m.

While this is considerably less than in 2018, it will make Minister Simon Harris's argument for extra funding difficult. Money already committed for demographic changes should allow him to announce new doctors and nurses, extra home-help hours and cheaper prescriptions for medical card holders.

CHILDCARE

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone will get one of the biggest increases ahead of the launch of the National Childcare Scheme at the end of October.

She wants families with a gross income of up to €100,000 to qualify for an additional five hours a week of subsidised childcare from September 2020. Other proposals under negotiation are increasing after-school childcare hours from 17 to 22 hours a week and add five hours to the 15 currently on offer to parents who are seeking employment.

Her argument was helped last week by figures which should some parents are now paying €1,000 a month for childcare.

CONSUMER

Deposit Interest Retention Tax (Dirt) is to be reduced from 35pc to 33pc on all savings. No changes to VAT are expected this year.

SOCIAL WELFARE

While Fianna Fáil's Willie O'Dea is arguing for pensioners to get an extra €5 again this year, his party colleagues who are directly involved in the negotiations are not so keen on the idea.

Instead, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty will target people most at risk of poverty and from Brexit. The Working Family Payment, Jobseeker Transition payments and Back to School Allowance are among those being looked at. Money will also be set aside to prepare for an increase in unemployment if there is a hard Brexit.

HOUSING

With homelessness still above the 10,000 figure, the Government is under huge pressure to deliver more housing. There are likely to be further commitments on social and affordable housing.

EDUCATION

There is still much debate over the education budget but it is expected that existing pupil-teacher ratios will be maintained.

The National Training Fund levy, which is paid by employers, will be increased by 0.1pc to raise an extra €77m for the third-level sector.

Irish Independent

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