A BUDGET that cares for the vulnerable while pushing for a Green recovery – that was the reaction to the Budget 2021 from Neasa Hourigan, Finance & Health Spokesperson for the Green Party.
Deputy Hourigan, TD for Dublin Central said tnat with Brexit and Covid “we have an uncertain year ahead of us”.
“What we can be certain of is that we need to do more to protect the vulnerable and those most impacted by COVID-19 and that we need to take material steps on moving to a low carbon economy,” she said.
“As such I welcome the budget moves that protect the vulnerable including: 403 special education teachers and 990 extra SNAs; increases in Qualified Child, Living Alone, Island Allowances and Carers support grant; an iIncrease in one parent allowance and th fact that fuel allowance will go up by €3.50.
“I also welcome moves to hasten the Green Recovery including: €131 million for energy efficiency upgrades; upcoming tax supports for Working from Home; changes in VRT bands to incentivise greener transport decisions.
“There is of course more to be done but this is a firm first step for this government”.
However, Labour Social Protection spokesperson Seán Sherlock slammed the failure of the government to restore their mean cut to the PUP, and the absence of any weekly increase in social welfare payments for the second year in a row.
Deputy Sherlock said: “The first main cut of this new government has been copper fastened in the Budget with no action to restore the €50 taken off the weekly pandemic unemployment payment.
“Nor did they restore the extra four weeks of fuel allowance that were paid earlier this year, taking account of the impact of Covid-19 on older people.
“We heard a lot of noise from Fianna Fáil backbenchers in recent weeks about the PUP but they have failed to deliver any restoration in the budget. TDs and Ministers played politics with people’s livelihoods by flying kites that the payment cut was likely to be either reversed at the Budget. It didn’t happen.
“In the context of the billions of additional support being pledged to fight the pandemic, restoring this mean spirited cut would have cost about €10 million a week. Or about €120m to the end of the year.
“If €350 was good enough in March and April, why is it not good enough now? We were told this government wouldn’t return to austerity. For the tens of thousands of workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own and who have had their income supports cut this will be a tough winter.
“For the second year in a row the FF-FG partnership has also failed to increase core weekly social welfare rates. At a time of rising costs, those on fixed incomes will have to survive on less.
“The increase in the pension age to 67 has been stopped as we called for, but only for a year, and this provides no certainty to older workers beyond 2021 and there was no mention of a transitional pension for workers who have to retire at 65.
“I do welcome increases in a small number of schemes such as the Qualified Child payment which is needed to address child poverty but the Government could have gone further than €2 extra a week for children aged under 12.”