Opposition hammers Budget 2021 on housing and social welfare

Opposition hammers Budget 2021 on housing and social welfare

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty (Niall Carson/PA)

Opposition politicians have hammered the budget on social welfare and housing.

Opposition parties were allotted 45 minutes each to reply to the budget, with many going back to the main concerns of voters during February's election, that they said have not been fixed.

Sinn Féin's finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said that the Government has left people "vulnerable" while signing off a super junior Minister's a pay rise of more than €17,000 and cut the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP).

"Cabinet colleagues stated that €350 is too much to give people who have suffered a shock to their incomes through no fault of their own. It is wrong.

"The Government has made those cuts permanent.

"Thousands are set to see their incomes cut by more than 40% as a result of this budget.

The Tánaiste and leader of Fine Gael, Deputy Varadkar, said that Fianna Fáil was a party with no ideas, no policies, and no alternatives. That was true then and is definitely true today.

Likewise, Public Expenditure spokesperson Mairead Farrell said: "Mortgage breaks for hard-pressed workers and families have been scrapped and protections for renters are out the window.

"We are no longer all in this together, and that is a choice this Government made. Instead of harnessing the strength of unprecedented social solidarity, community and cohesion, it has chosen to take a different road."

Labour said "work should have started today," on a new health service but "instead we are again papering over the cracks," adding that "the chickens have come home to roost because of years of under investment in public services," according to Ged Nash.

"Ireland has the lowest level of critical care beds in Europe, the lowest level of hospital consultants, and the highest waiting lists," Mr Nash said.

"Despite years of delays regarding the implementation of Slaintecare, we were able to effectively nationalise private hospitals practically overnight in March when we feared the worst.

"We should not wait another 5 or 10 years for a change that we now know can and must happen now.

"€115m per month on private hospitals which were only run at just one-third of capacity "Rather than outsourcing our healthcare system to the private sector, the State could have stepped in to directly nationalise at least two private hospitals for an estimated €450m.

"This would have been a bold but necessary first step towards a single-tier public Healthcare System that serves everyone.

"We know that timely treatment of patients is crucial in term of survival rates for a whole host of conditions – including cancers, stroke and heart disease.

Labour Finance spokesperson Ged Nash. File picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Labour Finance spokesperson Ged Nash. File picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

"Yet the Government has not done enough to ensure screening services remain open or reduce sky-high waiting lists."

The Social Democrats noted that housing gives no breaks for renters and affordable housing and "lacks the ambition that is required".

"The Government should be taking advantage of the historically low interest rates by borrowing to directly build thousands of affordable homes," Cian O'Callaghan said.

"The budget includes funding for just 400 cost rental homes.

"The Shared Equity Scheme was inspired by property developers who lobbied the Minister to have it included in today’s budget. This scheme will keep prices inflated, much to developers' delight.

“Overall, today’s budget is a continuation of the failed housing policies of the past."

People Before Profit's Richard Boyd Barrett said the decision not to restore the PUP is "nothing short of a disgrace and a dangerous mistake" in terms of forcing people back to work when they could be sick as the country battles a resurgence.

"The budget, despite significant increases in expenditure, does not do what is necessary in terms of dealing with the threat of Covid19."

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