No cash to pay for €3bn wishlist submitted by ministers

A €3 billion wishlist submitted by ministers is to be dramatically cut in the coming days as no additional funding will be available in the upcoming budget.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe is to meet his fellow ministers next week to go through individual wish-lists and whittle down funds being sought after their submissions came in way over what is actually available.

The Government has around €1bn available in the budget but this will be spent on a 2:1 ratio between services and tax cuts.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has already ruled out any dramatic cuts to USC in next month’s budget, adding that the Government will focus on providing services additional including teachers, nurses, and gardaí.

Mr Donohoe yesterday told ministers at a cabinet meeting that the suggestions put forward by many departments are “not workable”.

A Government spokesman said: “There’s finite resources for ministers. There was an ask of €3bn, ministers will be asked to pear that back. This included current and capital spending, but not taxation measures.”

An Independent Alliance spokesman said his ministers were engaged in the estimates process for the first time on the budget.

With no supplementary budget available this year to breach any overspends in areas such has health which have consistently come in far in excess of projections, departments are likely to be under pressure to get the most out of Budget 2017.

Education is another area where extra resources will be needed to cater for the 11,000 extra children in primary and post primary schools next year.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the Government will provide funding in the budget to employ an extra 648 teachers in 2017.

Social Protection is another major draw on public funding. Minister Leo Varadkar recently confirmed that it would cost his department €200m next year just to meet the cost of payments for new pensioners and this was before any rate increase in the State pension. Speaking at the Fine Gael think-in this week, Mr Varadkar said his main budget priority is to introduce a package for the self-employed.

“My own personal priority is to get started on improving things for the self-employed, both in terms of tax credits and also starting to extend some of the social protections to the self-employed that employees have always had but the self-employed don’t have,” he said.

Mr Varadkar added that he would be pushing to introduce an invalidly pension for the self-employed.

In order to ensure that Estimates are finalised in time and that an effective Budget can be passed, Mr Donohoe asked Cabinet colleagues to prioritise requests in accordance with Government priorities and the limitation on resources.

He told ministers that Account should also be taken of the substantial resources already included in Departmental Estimates which deal with demographic pressures in the areas, for example, of education, health and social protection.

He asked colleagues to submit final budgetary requests so that work can be completed on compiling a Budget that will improve the lives of our people while securing the progress we have made to date.

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