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Open thread: What would YOU do with Budget 2013?

While we wait on tenterhooks for the cuts and taxes to be imposed on Wednesday, let’s come up with a PLAN, people.

Some suggestions for you, Minister.
Some suggestions for you, Minister.
Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire

WHERE IS THE Government going to find an estimated €3.5 billion in savings and taxes next Wednesday?

We’ll find out in three days’ time and there has been plenty of speculation as to where it might come from. Chief among the predicted cuts and taxes are a property tax and moves on the children’s allowances.

While you may have an opinion on what shouldn’t be touched, we’d like to hear if you have thoughts on where savings could be made – or revenue to the State increased.

The Government did actually consult with the public for ideas on how to review expenditure in summer 2011, in advance of the first Budget to be released by this Labour-Fine Gael coalition last December.

These were suggestions the departments themselves gave to the Comprehensive Expenditure Review of last year. These were some of what each department indicated could be “savings areas 2013-2014 to remain within expenditure ceilings”:

Social Protection - A single social assistance payment to replace the different means-tested working age payments; A “universal component to replace child benefit with one single payment rate per child” (with a supplement for children in families of receipt of social welfare or of low income).

Health – Reduce the “price and volume of goods and services procured by the health services” (they are not specific here); “ongoing reduction in health service employment levels” (again, not specific, so perhaps you might have ideas as to what areas these reductions could be).

Education & Skills – This department did not specify areas for 2013 but said that they would have to find €70m of savings from somewhere next year. What areas would this come from? Increase the Pupil Teacher Ratio? Reduce allowances to those on training schemes? Increase revenue through means-tested higher education fees?

Agriculture, Food & the Marine – This department also didn’t proffer specific savings for 2013-14 but said that resources that are directed towards reaching their Food Harvest 2020 goals should be favoured. This would favour protecting measures that help grow Irish agri-food exports and the branding of Irish food globally as premium products. So would savings come from streamlining State bodies like Teagasc, Bord Bia, BIM? Sales of harvesting rights in Coillte woods, as recently proposed? Certain agriculture grants?

Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht – In arts, “shared services, deferral of projects… curtailment of some schemes” – which ones would you suggest? There is also heritage (which includes some major archaeological and heritage visitor sites), Gaeltacht grant and protection schemes to consider, as well as funding for North-South co-operation initiatives. Can you see any revenue-generating opportunities or savings in these areas?

Children & Youth Affairs – Reducing allocations to Children’s Services Committees and for Family Resource Centres and Mediation Services were mentioned as areas for potential cuts, among others, for 2013.

Communications, Energy & Natural Resources – Should there be a change to grants for energy-saving measures implemented by businesses or households?

Defence - “The reductions in the personnel numbers in the Defence organisation and the non-pay savings will be sustained over the period to 2014″, they submitted. Could anything else be done in the area of Defence?

Environment, Community & Local Government - This department suggested that there should be “a fuller alignment of local government and local/community development functions and programmes”, a look at “shared services initiatives” and “agency rationalisation”.

Finance - This department said they would be making “critical analysis of spending, efficiency, staffing and service-delivery models within the Finance Group”. Could you be more specific than that?

Foreign Affairs & Trade – They are promising to “rigorously pursue administrative efficiencies” and also look at the network of embassies it has. Should we make changes to foreign aid? Is there a way of making sure that assuming the presidency of the EU – which will be shouldered by this department – is cost-efficient?

Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation – “Streamlining the State’s employment bodies”; “Prioritisation of projects and initiatives” in Science, Tech and Innovation – so which projects and initiatives should we lose?

Justice & Equality - This takes in gardai, courts, CAB, prisons so the payroll and pensions is a massive percentage of expenditure here and the department notes that this will have to be “carefully managed” with so many frontline staff. How best to mitigate reduced staffing and increase efficiency? Any particular costs that should be reduced?

Public Expenditure & Reform – This department said that there should be a decrease “from the 2012 peak in retirement-related payments” next year, which might help, and intends to further reduce rent bills and make admin efficiences. Should they go further?

Department of Taoiseach – This takes in the State’s legal offices and the DPP so legal fees payable by the State is one area covered, with note of “fundamental changes” being required there. The department was not specific on other areas.

Transport, Tourism & Sport - Should we see “significant service reductions” in public transport and “manageable fare increases”; “The main spending agencies are required to deliver savings in the range of 15% to 25% over the three year period”; “difficult decisions” required on how to allocate remaining funds for roads maintenance and winter road maintenance; “reduced allocation for tourism marketing programmes”; cuts to subsidy at regional airports is mooted, as is to Rural Transport Initiative.

Across-the-board measures and suggestions for raising revenue are also welcome. Hit us with your brightest ideas in the comments section… You’d never know who might be watching.

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