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'No fireworks, no big bonanza' - Leo's been managing expectations ahead of the Budget

It’s that time of year again.

Updated at 9am 

IT’S THAT TIME of year again, when the Finance Minister dons a new tie and we hear all about where the government plans to spend our money for the year ahead.

And while there used to be much fanfare around Budget Day, the build-up is comparatively muted this year. This is partly due to there being limited cash in the pot for tax cuts and spending.

Speaking on his way into Government Buildings this morning, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar wasn’t giving too much away – but spoke in broad terms about what people can expect today. Many of the measures have been in the public domain for some time already (here’s a quick run-down on what to look out for).

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will be announcing, he said, “further investments in health and education – more teachers, more nurses, more gardaí” along with “a very significant increase on spending on infrastructure – with big increases for housing and transport in particular”.

“There’s also a tax and welfare package which puts more money back in the pockets of taxpayers, working people, families, pensioners, people on welfare as well as measures to reduce the cost of living – particularly in relation to childcare and prescription medicines.”

Describing it as “a good Budget overall,” he cautioned:

There’s no fireworks, no big bonanza – but it is another small sustainable step in the right direction for the country.

Asked specifically about the tax package expected today, the Taoiseach said:

You’ll see a reduction in income taxes, you’ll see a reduction in the USC – the point at which people enter the higher rate of tax is coming down and that’s important because the only reason that we afford to run public services in Ireland, the only reason why we can now afford more investment in housing and transport is because nearly two million people in this country every day go to work. We believe they deserve something back.

“For an average family with two incomes you’re talking an extra five and six hundred euros a year,” Varadkar said. Coupled with savings in childcare and medicine costs the savings for that family may be a little higher, he said.

“It is modest but it is real,” he insisted.

And we’re also finding additional money for services, additional money for infrastructure and crucially, really crucially balancing the books for the first time in ten years.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, who arrived ahead of the Taoiseach at the Merrion Street entrance to Government Buildings this morning, confirmed additional free childcare measures for three and four-year-olds could be expected.

Additional staff would also be  hired at child and family agency Tusla, she said.  She also promised a “very big initiative” in relation to family resource centres which she said would “impact communities throughout the country”.

There are currently 109 such centres around the country, according to Tusla. The facilities give information, advice and support to families in disadvantaged areas.

How will the day play out?

One big difference compared to years gone by is that there will be just one Budget speech today (previously, we would have heard from the two ministers – Finance and Public Expenditure).

Due to Paschal Donohoe holding both the positions of Finance and Public Expenditure Minister, he’ll essentially be double-jobbing, with his Budget speech (likely to last under an hour) to begin at 1pm, a slightly earlier time slot than previous years.

The expenditure and taxation documents will be published simultaneously on the government’s Merrion Street website.

Following this, it will be time for the opposition to weigh in; there’s plenty time allotted for this in the Dáil – a good eight hours.

First up will be Fianna Fáil at 2pm, followed by Sinn Féin at 3pm, Labour at 4pm – followed by the smaller parties.

There won’t be any other Dáil business taking place today, and as you can see from the schedule (below) it’s going to go late into the evening.

You can watch all the day’s proceedings on the Oireachtas website. RTÉ will also have extensive coverage on TV and radio, with live coverage beginning shortly before 1pm.

budget

We will be bringing you all of the measures and changes that affect you, your family and community, along with analysis and commentary.

Then on Wednesday evening, when you’ve had time to digest the facts and figures, TheJournal.ie will host a special one-off Facebook Live with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister Donohue.

Kicking off at 8pm from Facebook’s Dublin HQ, we will be putting some of your concerns and observations to the Taoiseach and the minister, and digging into the thinking behind the decisions made for the country and what it means for our collective future. Here’s how to get involved.

Read: Here’s what we can expect in the Budget this year >

Read: Fianna Fáil on Budget 2018: Tax cuts will be ‘modest’ while social welfare increases ‘won’t be miserly’ >

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About the author:

Daragh Brophy and Christina Finn

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