Higher tax take urged to help poor

THE Government was urged yesterday to consider both raising taxes and going back to borrowing in a bid to help people who have benefited least from economic growth.

Ahead of negotiations which open tomorrow on a new national agreement on pay and social inclusion, the Community Platform (CP) suggested the Government must choose "to invest in a just and equal society."

CP is made up of 24 national organisations and represents hundreds of thousands of people.

It will take part in the national negotiations along with the other interest groups which include trade unions, employers, farmers and the Government.

Last April, the grouping walked out of the final meeting of the last national agreement. This protest was because the Government rolled back the equality and rights agenda by introducing legislation which had not been agreed in partnership.

Among its 14 demands, CP will be renewing its drive that vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, Travellers and asylum seekers be provided with a range of services by right.

The Platform will also enter the negotiations looking for the right to accommodation, a health service for all and "enough money in everyone's pocket". "We will demand government policies which prioritise people who have benefited least from economic growth," said CP spokesperson Donal Toolan at a press conference in Dublin. "We will highlight the importance of ensuring that the divide between the rich and the poor is narrowed rather than widened."

Spokesperson Frances Byrne said its specific demands would include:

An increase in the level of social spending by the Government.

A fair deal for people on social welfare.

Improved childcare, eldercare and support for people with disabilities.

In addition, the Platform wants greater access to education for the most disadvantaged; measures to increase access to employment for low-income, and strategies to address social issues such as addiction.

"The Platform also believes it will be necessary for the Government to borrow to fund key social infrastructure in the National Development Plan.

"It must be remembered that Ireland continues to have the lowest social expenditure in the European Union," Ms Byrne said. Senator David Norris, who chaired the launch, said community, voluntary and non-governmental organisations made a disproportionately valuable contribution to Irish life. "The Community Platform represents those who often don't have their voices heard and I, and my colleagues in the Senate, are always happy to receive briefings from these organisations so that we can urge government support for their invaluable work."

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