BUDGET 2016: ‘Tax food, scrap Water’ say opposition parties

A potential tax on all forms of junk food, the scrapping of Irish Water and a levy making AIB pay back funds given by the State to prop up the bank during the crash have been called for in opposition parties’ alternative budget plans.

The recently formed Social Democrats and left-wing People before Profit outlined the offers a day before the Government unveils what is in store for the public’s finances next year.

In separate press conferences yesterday, the last opposition parties to outline their plans said they believed a series of initiatives, other than those widely rumoured to be on the cards from the coalition, should be considered. And while issues such as the removal of Irish Water, a reduction in USC, increased funding in health and increased taxes to target lucrative corporate firms are detailed as expected, a large number of other proposals have also been offered.

Among the Social Democrats’ list of alternative options for voters is a potential levy on all junk foods high in salt or saturated fat. It says that could bring in €188m a year. A further increase to the alcohol levy bringing in €118m has also been proposed, in addition to a 20c rise in the price of cigarettes that would cost €22m.

One of the Social Democrats’ three TDs, Stephen Donnelly, also said it is seeking to abolish domestic water charges, — costing €13m — but may be open to supporting water charges in the future.

The opposition group is also seeking to restore the carer’s respite grant, impose a levy on AIB so the State can claim back money loaned to the bank to prop it up during the crash, appoint 3,000 more teachers and 900 new primary care health staff, and reduce USC by 0.5% for people earning more than €70,000 a year.

Meanwhile, People before Profit has called for the abolition of Irish Water and the property tax, to remove USC for people earning less than €35,000 a year, to half it for people earning up to €70,000 a year and to reverse all welfare cuts during the economic crisis.

The party is also proposing to spend €1bn extra on health, introduce a 2% wealth tax on funds excluding a family home or a farm priced at more than €1m, and to raise a further €3.5bn by clamping down on corporation tax avoidance.

Speaking at People before Profit’s alternative budget launch, party TD Richard Boyd Barrett said that it is “insulting” for the Government to claim all households are benefiting from a recovery which he said is biased towards wealthy sections of society.

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