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A sun-bed levy and 'young, hip Mayo towns': Smaller parties reveal their Budget wish lists

A busy morning on Molesworth Street, as the Greens, SocDems and Solidarity-PBP unveiled their ideas.

THREE OF THE Dáil’s smaller parties held budget-sized press conferences close to Leinster House this morning.

The SocDems, the Greens and Solidarity-People Before Profit all wanted to talk up their Budget 2018 wish lists, and staged press events that clocked in in-or-around the half-hour mark.

Partly a result of the unusual makeup of the current Dáil, some smaller parties have already had success in getting proposals accepted into the government’s Budget for the coming year – it was announced this week, for example, that maternity leave would be extended for mothers whose babies are born prematurely.

That measure was initially proposed by the Green Party TD Catherine Martin.

Many of the proposals aired at this morning are unlikely to be put into practice unless the parties manage to get into a coalition government at the next election.

But the events, at least, give us an insight into where they stand…

The Green Party

Greens leader Eamon Ryan said the party wanted to prioritise housing and education funding, as he kicked off their event upstairs at the Molesworth Gallery.

As you would expect, green issues were also high on the agenda. They want a new fund to be created to create “new clean energy” industries in the Midlands for Bord na Mona workers.

And in transport the party wants “an immediate increase in funding for greenways and public electric vehicle charging points” to help decarbonise the transport system.

‘Six towns’ 

In the most novel idea put forward at the event, Ryan suggested that the government should “experiment” by introducing a basic income scheme for six different towns around the country – to test how it would work nationwide.

The towns, which would bid to be involved in the programme, would “try out a basic approach to social welfare”.

All social welfare recipients would get a minimum of €200 per week and the results would be analysed and modeled to assess the impact. Dole payments – particularly for younger people – have been slashed in recent years, in the wake of the recession: currently 18-24-year-olds on Jobseeker’s Allowance get just over €100. 

“International analysis we read says that when it comes to cracking poverty, the best way is to give people a basic safety net,” said Ryan.

Asked whether such an experiment would result in a flood of people moving to the towns in the programme, Ryan said that would be “not a bad outcome”.

There are market towns all over the country in need of being turned around, he insisted – asking reporters to “imagine a thronged, heaving, popular, young, hip Mayo town”.

Solidarity-PBP

Across the road in Buswells Hotel, Paul Murphy, Richard Boyd-Barrett, Brid Smith and Ruth Coppinger outlined the priorities for the left-wing grouping.

“The lives of the many could be positively transformed through socialist policies that redistribute the wealth and profits of the corporations and the super-rich,” according to Solidarity-PBP.

They say: 

  • 40,000 social and affordable homes could be provided in the next year
  • A national health service should be introduced – paid for through progressive taxation
  • Education fees should be scrapped and pupil teacher ratios reduced
  • There should be more investment in public transport, and fares should be halved
  • The should be free public childcare for all

Where would the money come from? 

It’s the question left-wing politicians always get asked… Here’s what Solidarity-PBP said in the document circulated to reporters today:

The standard response from conservative forces is always the same- where will the money come from? Our alternative budget answers this question, using only official statistics, by pointing to the massive increases in profits for the corporations and the wealth of the richest in our society. Our proposals would mean those in the top 7% of income earners paying a little more, leaving the bottom 93% without any extra burden. The fact that nearly €16 billion can be found in this manner confirms the fact that Ireland is a very wealthy country.

SocDems

An anti-corruption agency, a land hoarding tax and a sunbed tax were some of the measures put forward in the alternative budget of the Social Democrats.

The party, which is just over two years old, has a brand new HQ on Molesworth Street – across from Leinster House – and eight candidates announced for the next general election.

If they were in government, what would they do?

Joint party leaders Catherine Murphy and Roísín Shortall said the country should spend wisely in order to save for the future.

The party would not cut taxes.

Said Shortall:

The last thing the country needs is populist tax cuts which amounts to a few euros a week in some people’s pockets.

In order to tackle the housing crisis it would introduce a land hoarding tax – penalising developers who hold onto sites – which the party says would raise €560 million .

The idea behind the tax is it would free up land and vacant sites, allowing builders to get building. The Social Democrats would also introduce an immediate rent cap nationwide and scrap the Help-To-Buy Scheme.

In terms of health, it wants to it wants to introduce Sláintecare (the plan put forward from the long-term health planning committee that met earlier this year). It would reduce prescription charges and introduce free GP care on a phased basis.

The Social Democrats want to bring in 13 weeks parental leave for either parent to avail of. They also want to increase funding to child and family agency Tusla and set-up a Brexit Fund for businesses that might be adversely affected.

All in all, the party wants to spend €2.3 billion.

SOC DEMS BUDGET 758A5818_90525602 SocDems co-leaders Roisin Shortall TD and Catherine Murphy TD. Source: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

In terms of cash the party wants to raise, it would do this through a number of measures such as:

  • An increase in tax on sugar, alcohol and cigarettes (15c on standard soft-drink cans, 10c on alcohol and 25c on a packet of cigarettes)
  • A betting tax for both in-shop and online bets of 2c
  • An increase in VAT in the hospitality sector
  • A sun-bed levy
  • A levy on single use plastics
  • A levy on non-recyclable plastics

The SocDems say their revenue raising measures would bring in €1.2 billion.

The party also wants to see its idea of an anti-corruption agency finally come to fruition. While the government has indicated it wants to see something similar, it was the Social Democrats that floated the idea first.

The cost of setting one up would be about €5 million, and it would be tasked with detecting and prosecuting corruption and white-collar crime.

Read: Labour wants banks to pay double their levy but says tax cuts would be ‘foolish’

Read: Sinn Féin wants to abolish the property tax at a cost of €440 million >

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About the author:

Daragh Brophy & Christina Finn

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