FG rejects middle-class budget bias claim

Junior finance minister Patrick O’Donovan has rejected claims that Fine Gael’s budget plans are too focussed on middle-class voters key to the party’s future election success.

Mr O’Donovan denied the claim as Fianna Fáil again called for universal social charge cuts to be prioritised over tax band changes in order to ensure people with lower incomes benefit from the October 10 budget.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics programme as Independent Alliance TD Seán Canney separately said rural transport improvements and potential insurance cuts for people driving customers home from rural pubs should be considered, Mr O’Donovan insisted Fine Gael is trying to help all of society in the budget.

Middle income-earners are seen as key to Fine Gael’s hopes of gaining up to 35% of the next election vote, and as being in part behind the party’s 3-point jump in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post/Red C poll. At 30% the party’s popularity is at its highest level since the last election and 4 points ahead of Fianna Fáil.

However, rejecting claims that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is focussing too much on middle income-earners who will benefit from changes to the entry point of the highest tax rate, Mr O’Donovan said the issue is not the real reason for planned changes.

“No, we made it very clear the last number of months that it is completely unfair a person enters into the highest tax band at that rate,” he said.

“Any time you get anything as a single person, or where you show a bit of initiative or get rewarded for being a worker, you enter into the top rate of tax.”

He said the Government wants to incentivise workers and that any other reason is “speculation”.

This was criticised by Lisa Chambers of Fianna Fáil, who said if Fine Gael wants to help the most people possible, it would cut USC from 5% to 4.5%, as under tax band changes “everyone earning under €30,000 would get nothing back”.

The row over whether to prioritise tax band changes, a cut to USC, or increased taxes to invest in housing, health, and social services, took place after Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe met a number of ministers, the Independent Alliance, and Fianna Fáil last week to discuss budget demands.

He is expected to meet again with key departments including health, education, and housing, the Independent Alliance, Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath, and public expenditure spokesman Dara Calleary early this week, with the budget just over a fortnight away.

Although the Independent Alliance has yet to finalise its own demands, Mr Canney, a member of the five-strong group, last night told the Irish Examiner he would like rural transport issues to be considered in the 2018 Budget.

He said the request is unrelated to the implications of Transport Minister and Alliance colleague Shane Ross’s drink-driving bill, but the Department of Finance may want to consider cutting insurance costs for people driving customers home from rural pubs, or investing in rural bus services.

Meanwhile, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty today launches plans to help those without jobs return to work.

The scheme will include increased interaction with jobseekers support; new incentives to “remove barriers for people transitioning from welfare to employment”; welfare reforms for working families; and expanding subsidised childcare access.

Related Articles

Budget 18 set to focus on childcare, housing and tax cuts

Finance Minister called AIB chairman to discuss bank's inclusion in Paradise Papers

Government set for big defeat over women’s pension anomaly

Donald Trump: 'I hear Ireland is reducing Corporation Tax to 8%'; Department says no

More in this Section

Truck driver’s lucky escape on icy road

Juveniles committed 45% of sex offences in 2016

Ireland 2040: Government defend plan branded a ‘marketing exercise’

1916 medals awarded to Defence Forces sold on Ebay


Breaking Stories

Goverment support is on the rise according to new poll

Man in critical condition following serious assault in Limerick

No winner of tonight's Lotto jackpot worth almost €6.7m

Concern for Irish human rights group member detained in Africa

Lifestyle

The biggest cancer killer will take your breath away

Hopefully she had an idea...

Power of the press: Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks discuss 'The Post'

More From The Irish Examiner