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Sinn Féin proposes free GP visits, back-to-school bonuses and welfare hikes in alternative budget

Sinn Féin also wants to introduce an annual ‘Back to School Bonus Child Benefit Payment’ of €140

Sinn Féin will launch its alternative budget today.
Sinn Féin will launch its alternative budget today.
Image: Sam Boal

SINN FÉIN HAS proposed giving people two free GP visits per year, setting up a Brexit stabilisation fund and introducing an immediate rent freeze in its alternative budget.

Seen by TheJournal.ie, the party’s budget plan, which is due to be published today, also proposes increasing social welfare payments by €5 and giving a €9 increase to those in receipt of disability payments.

Sinn Féin has targeted insurance and childcare costs in their alternative budget proposals for 2020 and will also seek to lift the tax-free status on banks.

Drafted by its finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty, the document advocates for an additional expenditure of €3.54 billion, well beyond the €2.1 billion already committed for 2020.

To support families, Sinn Féin also wants to introduce an annual ‘Back to School Bonus Child Benefit Payment’ of €140 ‘to help overcome the costs of education’. A total of €84 million would be paid out on this in 2020, with the full cost coming in at €168 million.

Renting 

The party’s document also sets out its proposed tax relief scheme for renters, which this publication reported on last week

In addition to such housing measures, the document also sets out that the party, if in power, would aim to deliver 17,216 social and affordable homes, which is an additional 8,700 more than the government in 2020. This would cost €1.072 billion.

Other aspects in the party’s alternative budget include increasing investment in local authority home retrofitting by 50%, at a cost of €12 million.

The party also wants to increase funding towards rental property inspections, which would cost €5 million, while also introducing an NCT-style system to regulate landlords. 

The alternative budget, which the party has had costed by the Department of Finance ahead of Budget day next Tuesday, outlines childcare improvements in the pay and conditions of childcare workers, as well as a promise to “slash” fees for parents. 

In terms of the free GP visits for everybody without a GP card or medical card, the party states that it sees this “as a first step to universal free GP care”. Such a move would cost €268.8 million.

With the party’s spokesperson on finance being vocal on “rip-off”insurance hikes, it is no surprise that there is mention of the insurance industry in the alternative budget.

Sinn Féin aims to tackle the insurance industry by reducing all non-life insurance premiums by 5% through abolishing two government levies on them.

Insurance

Doherty said the party also wants to introduce an Insurance Consumer Contract Bill which would increase protection. 

“We will take on the broken insurance system. We would allocate the funding necessary for our citizens with disabilities to experience real equality and prioritise tackling child poverty,” the document states.

Meanwhile, the government’s Budget has been drafted on the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has said this year’s Budget will be modest, though the Taoiseach has hinted to some minimal tax cuts. 

Sinn Féin’s alternative budget also has a big focus on Brexit. 

Its alternative budget has two priorities states the 29-page document: investing in supports for businesses and sectors most vulnerable to a no-deal Brexit and stimulating the wider economy to withstand a Brexit shock to economic activity and the public finances.

The party says that it has “allocated significant investment for the agri-food sector,
vulnerable SMEs (exporting and non-exporting), protecting north-south trade on the island of Ireland, and the tourism industry”.

The supports run alongside a Brexit Stabilisation Fund.

“This fund, which would be financed to the tune of €2 billion, is designed to stimulate growth and economic activity in the event of a no-deal shock. Fine Gael had proposed putting money into a Rainy Day Fund the rules governing which would actually prohibit that money being spent in response to Brexit. By diverting this money Sinn Féin would create a new fund that stands ready to be deployed,” the document outlines. 

Doherty also believes his party will take on the banks, noting:

“For years the big banks have enjoyed a multibillion-euro tax break, bailed out by the people, they have avoided paying tax by offsetting historic losses against massive profits.

“Sinn Fein would end this loophole and make sure the banks pay their fair share so that workers and families are given a break.

“There is no excuse to extend this tax break for the banks when ordinary people are facing so many challenges.”

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