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Budget Day: ‘Lack of vision and ambition’ behind a Budget which ‘fails to help those most in need’ 

The speeches for Budget 2023 have concluded in the Dáil, as the Government announced its ‘cost of living’ Budget in an attempt to ease public fears as Ireland wades into a winter of uncertainty.

It has been confirmed that all Irish households regardless of size or make-up will receive energy credits worth €600; tax band charges will see the income standard rate cut off point increasing from €36,800 to €40,000 for single people; and social welfare payments are to increase by €12 a week. 

The reaction has been mixed, with accusations that the Budget has been characterised by ‘short-term thinking’, a failure to consider long-term reform, and a lack of targeting. Many have expressed disappointment that a budget which could have made a real difference to people’s lives has fallen short, amid complaints that renters and young people are among those who have been forgotten in a ‘two-tier Ireland’.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín was among politicians who expressed dissatisfaction with the 2023 budget. He took aim at the Government’s strategy, stating that 80 per cent of the €1.2billion of Electricity Credits that Irish people will receive in the next year have already been paid for through extra VAT on Fuel and Carbon taxes. “They are taking your money with one hand and giving it back to you with the other,” he said in his commentary on social media and in his address to the Chamber this evening: 

Earlier today, the Meath West TD tweeted about how the government will take in €325million more on VAT this year than they did before the Cost-of-Living Crisis hit. Mr Toibin said that information was revealed in an answer to a Parliamentary Question which he received today.

“Think about that. The Gov are quids in while families are suffering,” he said.

Mr Tóibín also highlighted the fact there was no windfall tax announced in the budget; the fact that the cut to third level education fees was a once-off measure; the reality that supports for schools was a once-off; that there will be no decoupling of electricity prices from the price of gas; and that all transport projects mentioned in the Minister’s speech were based in Dublin. 

Cian O’Callaghan, Social Democrats Housing Spokesperson, was among multiple politicians who said the budget failed to adequately tackle the housing crisis. He said the vacant homes tax is “far too weak to be effective”, that the renter’s tax credit will be “gobbled up by rent increases” leading to spiralling rent inflation, and that investment funds will “continue to get away with paying very little tax”:

He was among politicians to highlight the reality of almost 90,000 empty homes in Ireland, arguing that the Vacant Homes Tax must be set at a much higher rate to bring vacant homes back to use, arguing that a tax of just 0.3 per cent will have very little impact.

On childcare, the Government announced that childcare fees will be slashed by up to 25 per cent, however, while this measure won praise, TD Michael McNamara was one politician to raise the question if there would be any assistance provided to children and parents who do not avail of the National Childcare Scheme, pointing to the reality that the measure would only benefit some:

Reacting to today’s Budget, Independent TD for Laois Offaly Carol Nolan said that her overall sense was that fundamentally, “nothing has changed” as she described Ireland’s ongoing cost-of-living crisis as a “cost of coalition crisis”

“I welcome the recognition that families and businesses are under enormous pressure, but overall my sense is that at least in terms of the fundamentals, nothing has changed. Our energy policy remains wedded to unreality and a utopian net zero ambition. This means Government has merely ensured a recurring and ongoing energy crisis where families will need additional support sooner rather than later”.

She continued: “Today was a day in which we saw and heard a vainglorious Government announce big measures but it was a bit like someone crashing your car and then expecting a pat on back because they offered to pay for the damage. The cost of living crisis is in many respects a cost of coalition crisis”.

Much of the reaction from the public highlighted the view that the Government’s tax changes announced in the budget would represent a “drop in the ocean” to people. One person was among many on social media to highlight the fact that many single earners would only get four euro extra a week as a tax-payer, while tax breaks for the wealthy are set to continue.

“If I am a PAYE on €30k I will get €4 extra per week, however if I chose not to work I get €12 extra per week, 2 bonuses (€440) on top of medical card, heat allowance, rent allowance and whatever other benefits available. Why not help the working person? #Budget2023Ireland” the Twitter user said.

“Are they aware that there are people who are single, no kids, can’t get a home and earning under €40k per year? What’s in the budget for us ?” another user said on social media last night, highlighting later today that they too would receive just four euro per week extra in support.

It was also highlighted by journalist Richard Chambers that the tax relief announced for renters “is worth just 7 days of rent in Dublin”, as the cost of rent in the capital was highlighted repeatedly today in the Chamber:

Charities and campaign groups also had their say on today’s Budget. Focus Ireland was among organisations who responded to the Budget. Ahead of today’s Budget announcement, the homelessness charity highlighted a record number of people homeless in Ireland, with that figure now at 10,568, with thousands more struggling to keep a roof over their heads. The charity said it was vital that Budget 2023 included immediate action to prevent people losing their homes, and to also fast-track social housing.

In a statement this afternoon, it said that while it welcomed the cost-of-living measures announced, the budget failed to tackle the deepening housing and homelessness crisis, adding that much more could have been done to protect the many thousands of people struggling to keep their homes. 

“It is unforgivable that given this reality the budget has failed to offer a single measure that will help to prevent many of these households from losing their homes and becoming homeless this Winter,” it said.

Family Carers Ireland, the national charity supporting Ireland’s 500,000+ family carers, shared their reaction to the measures announced in the Budget. They said that while the measures represented a “necessary but short-term response to the cost-of-living crisis”, family carers were still “undercompensated” in the budget for the care they provide.

The organisation said that the budget lacked the “long-term vision and reform necessary” to tackle the “deep-rooted challenges facing those caring for loved ones at home”.

“Among the measures confirmed are a €12 increase in the weekly rate of Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit, a €20 rise in Domiciliary Care Allowance, a €500 once-off payment in November to those in receipt of the Carer’s Support Grant, a double “cost of living” social welfare payment in October, a €100 increase in the Home Carer Tax Credit and changes to the rules around Fuel Allowance which will address the anomaly affecting those in receipt of half-rate Carer’s Allowance,” the charity said.

“We are disappointed that the budget did not allow a more fundamental review of how the State categorises, compensates and values family carers as set out in our pre-budget submission, including necessary reform of the means test, but we hope to engage with the Minister on this over the coming months.

“We cautiously welcome additional funding towards respite, day services and residential places in respect of Disability, Older Persons and Mental Health services but await further details on these measures,” Family Carers Ireland added.

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