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Tax cuts shouldn't come at expense of health services, Varadkar warns

Michael Noonan said last week that any tax breaks would have to be paid for elsewhere in the system.

Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Updated at 11pm

HEALTH MINISTER LEO Varadkar said this morning that whatever tax cuts are brought in as part of Budget 2015, the measures shouldn’t come at the expense of health services.

It follows reports that the Minister is to ask for €500 million in his budget next year, in a bid to end annual overruns in his Department’s spending.

Speaking in an interview on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Varadkar said that Budget discussions hadn’t begun “formally yet”.

“We haven’t had that sort of detailed discussion,” he said, when asked whether he’d be asking for more money.

This evening, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told reporters that no decisions have been made on the Budget, RTÉ reports.

On the issue of tax cuts, he said:

I don’t think that people would welcome an increase in take-home pay if it came at the expense of health services.

It comes amid speculation, (much of it fueled by the Government) that next month’s Budget could contain good news for hard-pressed taxpayers — in particular, income tax cuts.

“Whatever tax package happens is going to be relatively modest,” Varadkar said.

“It might be a fiver a tenner in your payslip every week — and I think people would like to see that because it would mean real evidence that the economy is recovering. It would also help the economy itself by increasing demand.

But I think people wouldn’t like that to happen if it came at the expense of health services and services provided to those most in need in our society.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan warned last week that any tax breaks would have to be paid for elsewhere in the system.

GP care

The Minister said he couldn’t put a deadline on when free GP care for under-sixes would be brought in. The measure was announced in the Budget last year as part of a planned roll-out of universal GP care for the entire population.

“We’ll have the legislation through for the over-70s this autumn.

Asked whether it would come in for under-sixes this year he said, “I can’t say that for certain”.

“That depends on how the talks and negotiations go with the IMO. It is very important to me that we bring GPs with us.

This is a huge opportunity to put resources back into general practice. I hope they see that, and as well as that it’s an opportunity to change the way we provide healthcare to have more people, particularly people who use GP care the most, being able to access their GPs.

He also reiterated that the HSE wouldn’t be scrapped this year, as envisaged by his predecessor.

Reilly, who was replaced by Leo Varadkar in this summer’s reshuffle, published plans in November of 2012 to dissolve the HSE and replace it with a new structure of purchasers and providers.

But in briefing documents posted on the Department of Health’s website on Friday, officials called the proposals “unworkable”.

First posted at 9am.

Read: Here’s why Fine Gael transfers could decide the ‘Ming’ by-election

Read: What do people think of Leo’s big plan to tackle health insurance?

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