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Huge public support for co-operation on Budget

Massive public support for a consensus approach to the economy by the Government and the opposition parties is revealed in today's Sunday Independent/Quantum Res-earch nationwide poll.

A huge majority of 81 per cent wants the main political parties to sit down and work out the provisions of the economic recovery plan for the next four years, and almost as many (79 per cent) want them to co-operate on the December Budget.

With both sides dragging their heels over the process for the past two weeks, most blame the slow progress on Brian Cowen (46 per cent) and Enda Kenny (26 per cent), with least blame apportioned to John Gormley (47 per cent) and Brian Lenihan (19 per cent).

Eamon Gilmore is seen as having been helpful and unhelpful in equal measure -- 17 per cent.

A majority of those polled would like to see an early General Election -- 34 per cent before the Budget and 31 per cent immediately afterwards, with just 35 per cent happy to see this Government run its full term.

But when those who want to see an election after rather than before the Budget are combined (65 per cent), it is clear the majority wants to see the Budget process fulfilled.

Despite the threats from independent deputies and those Fianna Fail TDs who have lost the whip, 73 per cent of those polled believe the Government will have sufficient support in the Dail to pass the Budget in December. And there is an acceptance that increasing the amount of tax revenue will have to be part of the Budget process (80 per cent).

The biggest percentage -- 43 per cent -- feel this should be done by widening the tax net to include those in employment who, up until now, have not paid any tax. Thirty-two per cent accept there will have to be some increases in certain rates of taxation such as income tax and Vat, but there is little support for a property tax (12 per cent) or water charges (13 per cent).

The poll, in which 500 households were contacted last Friday, shows that a massive majority of 73 per cent favour compulsory redundancies in the public service as part of the necessary cost-cutting measures. They also support public service pay cuts (54 per cent) and cuts to public service pensions (57 per cent).

The comments of some of the respondents reflected the feelings of those polled.

"We are in a big hole, the only way to get out of it is to pull together," said one man in relation to consensus talks.

"The playground antics are getting us nowhere and I'm delighted there is talk of co-operation, I just hope it's not too late," a female respondent said, while another added: "Fianna Fail will use this an excuse to blame the other parties down the line."

Yet another said: "I have to say I'm dreading this Budget, but there is no alternative. Money has to be found and they all need to sit around a table and find the best way forward."

But a male respondent said: "The Government doesn't seem to be listening to the opposition or anyone else. It's very pig-headed so I don't think consensus is on the cards."

Another said: "Fair play to John Gormley. At last he has done something useful even if it is just to save his own skin." And a woman said: "As usual Cowen sits on his hands and lets others take the initiative, he's useless."

One male respondent said about the Budget: "If they don't get it through we will have the IMF sitting in the Dail come January," and a female respondent said: "It (the Budget) won't happen, it would be political suicide for a lot of them and self-preservation will kick in."

Asked about the need for a General Election, a woman said: "We can't afford an election right now either in terms of money or time," while a man responded: "We have to have an election right away, this Government is the worst we have ever had and they have to go."

On the make-up of the Budget, one woman said: "A small amount of tax should be taken from everyone, from those on social welfare to top earners," while another said: "They can't keep taxing the middle classes, we have paid too much already. The net has to be widened."

But a male respondent said: "I don't agree with taxing those on low incomes, the money has to found from those earning more."

Asked about making savings in the public service, a man said: "I am a public servant and I do believe we need to lose a lot of people. There are people sitting at their desks and they have nothing to do, I see it every day."

A female respondent said: "The wage cuts should only be levelled at those in the higher grades, they have to get off the gravy train."

Another said: "Public service pay over a certain threshold should definitely be cut. It doesn't wash in a small country like Ireland that Brian Cowen earns more money than the president of the US."

A male respondent said: "The pension situation is ridiculous, they are getting money for nothing compared to what you have to do in the private sector just to have a pittance on retirement."

And another man said: "The country is crying out for change but no one seems to have the courage to do what has to be done in the public service. We can't afford the outlay anymore."

Sunday Independent