Sunday 25 February 2018

Huge majority want cuts before tax hikes

FG exposed on plan shift Poll shows 65pc want to chop spending

Tom Molloy, Fionnan Sheahan and Michael Brennan

THE VAST majority of voters want spending cuts rather than tax increases, an Irish Independent/Millward Brown Lansdowne poll reveals.

Voters, reeling from the cuts to their pay packages last month, indicated strong resistance to further tax increases.

Almost two-thirds (65pc) would rather see cuts to public spending as household incomes plummet and the threat of fresh mortgage hikes looms, with just 7pc in favour of raising taxes. And 18pc want a mixture of both.

The latest opinion poll findings come as Fine Gael yesterday tried to sneak through a major shift in its policy of prioritising spending cuts over tax increases.

Its old policy, dropped unceremoniously yesterday, committed the party to cut €3 of spending for every extra euro raised in taxes.

Now Fine Gael is planning just €2 in cuts for every euro in higher taxes.

Yet worryingly for the party, which is on course to win its first general election in 28 years, our poll shows spending cuts are most popular among its own supporters.

Gaping holes in the party's economic promises were exposed yesterday as its 2011 General Election campaign got off to a bad start.

Although party leader Enda Kenny said his party had the "best plan" to rescue the country, his spin-doctors' attempts to prevent Fine Gael's economic policy being questioned backfired badly.

Its press conference ended in farce as the senior front bench marched out and refused to answer or explain specific questions.

The party also failed to back up a pledge to end borrowing for day-to-day spending in the next five years with any proof of how it was making the bold prediction.

And FG confirmed it was scrapping its previous pledge to create 105,000 new jobs through an €18bn "New Era" plan for new broadband, energy and water infrastructure.

Its revised jobs plan, being launched today, will instead contain a pledge to provide 20,000 jobs annually over the next four years (80,000 jobs) using a variety of schemes and the funding allocated to New Era has been cut to €7bn.

Fine Gael pledged not to increase income taxes or cut the old-age pension at the launch of its five-point plan yesterday.

But its finance spokesman Michael Noonan could not provide any figures to back up his claim that Fine Gael would balance the budget for the day-to-day running of the country by 2016.


He admitted there might be a €3bn gap that would have to be filled to balance the current spending budget -- and claimed increased economic growth would provide the solution.

Mr Noonan conceded that the party would focus on reducing the deficit in the public finances by €9bn by imposing more spending cuts than tax increases.

"Corrections made by tax increases have three times the adverse effect on job creation than corrections made by reductions in expenditure," Mr Noonan added.

But under further questioning, he had to admit his party would be increasing the amount of tax hikes it had planned for the next three years.

When the shift from spending cuts to tax hikes was pointed out to Mr Noonan, he replied: "It's well-spotted, what you say."

Fianna Fail Limerick West TD Niall Collins reacted yesterday to Mr Kenny's "swift and premature exit" from yesterday's news conference at the party's Dublin election headquarters as journalists attempted to ask further questions.

He said it showed that Mr Kenny's handlers wanted to restrict his exposure to hard questioning.

"Fine Gael seems to believe that providing soundbites will suffice in the run-up to the election. I can assure them that this is not, and will not be, the case," he said.

Irish Independent

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