Lee: ‘This thing is really going to bite’

THE budget contains “plenty of maggots” and is “really going to bite”, former Fine Gael TD George Lee has warned.

The RTÉ presenter and economist said the two-part budget was deceptive, because it contained no income tax hikes and therefore at first glance didn’t appear so bad.

But the cumulative effect of the various spending cuts and other tax hikes would all add up to take significant sums out of people’s pockets, he warned.

Mr Lee said it was unusual for a budget not to affect take-home pay for the vast majority of the workforce. The only change made in this budget was to raise the threshold at which the lowest-paid pay the universal social change.

“I have never come across or seen a budget whereby take-home pay wasn’t affected for anybody (with the exception of) the people at the very lowest,” he told the Tubridy Show on 2FM.

“So in one sense that looks like, ‘Whew, that wasn’t so bad’. But you have to look behind that and see, ‘My God, this thing is really going to bite’.

“You don’t take €3.8bn out of an economy without pain. And it works out at just over €2,000... out of your pocket somehow, for every worker in the country.”

Mr Lee, who resigned from the Dáil in February of last year in frustration at his lack of input on Fine Gael economic policy, said people would feel the “stinging” budget “in all sorts of ways”.

These included:

* The VAT increase, which will make goods more expensive.

* The changes in the healthcare system, which will drive up the cost of private health insurance.

* Increases in petrol and diesel.

* The annual household charge of €100.

* The motor tax hike.

Asked by presenter Ryan Tubridy if the budget was comparable to drinking a bottle of tequila only to find a maggot at the bottom, Mr Lee replied: “I suppose there’s plenty of maggots in this one, to be honest.”

He said cuts affecting the most vulnerable in society would create enormous hardship. “Somebody’s just pulled the rug out from under you and you don’t know what to do or where to turn.”

He warned more pain was to come, as the Government was committed to a series of hairshirt budgets, which would see the household charge increased and water charges introduced, among other things.

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