Slow burners scorch TDs

The main issues causing Government TDs grief have been thrashed out in recent days but some are ‘slow burners’ and will only be felt and realised by voters in the coming weeks and months.

Often, it can also be the smaller but more blunt cuts that haunt politicians and angers their supporters. Arguments are also being made about measures that were not part of the budget and should have been.

* Child benefit

Monthly child benefit payments will be reduced by €10 for the first and second children and €18 for the third. On average, a family with three children will be €456 less well off in a year. This cut does not take account of different incomes. A compensatory financial injection into childcare in lieu of the cut has been dismissed by charities. Labour TDs will find this cut particularly tough to defend as the party promised voters it would protect the payment during last year’s election.

* PRSI changes

By far one of the biggest revenue earners in the budget, the changes nonetheless will see the low-paid as well as millionaires paying the same €264 extra a year. TDs from both parties will find it difficult arguing that this is not a tax hike. It seems a particularly cruel measure when applied to those earning less than €20,000 a year, as will be the case. Pay packets at the end of the month will be less but by then the measure will likely have been passed in the Dáil.

* Property tax

Well flagged by both parties. However, the levy, collected as the household charge this year, has only been paid by two thirds of homeowners. It remains to be seen whether middle Ireland will boycott the tax. This is unlikely once Revenue begin to strictly enforce it. But the lower standard rate of 0.18% applying to dwellings valued at under €1m will hit those struggling with mortgages. Essentially, this could be the ticking timebomb that unseats some TDs down the line.

* Respite care cuts

Not much was explained about this dramatic cut for carers in the budget documentation. The 20% reduction from €1,700 a year to €1,375 will affect over 70,000 people, according to the Department of Social Protection. It remains to be seen what form of protest in the coming days could embarrass TDs into piling pressure on the coalition leaders to reverse the cut. But it is definitely being viewed as one of the cruellest, especially for those caring for the elderly and the disabled.

* Measures left out

Some politicians question why a higher tax on the wealthy through a special levy or an increase in the universal social charge was not tried. Others question why more relief was not offered to the tens ofthousands of troubled mortgage holders.

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