Posts Tagged ‘ Cuts ’

News in Brief – Ireland Falls To A New Kind Of Criminal

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Enda’s been away on a mission before the taste of Turkey has barely left our lips. Good old Enda, what would we do without him? Well, actually while he’s been away the Limerick City of Culture Committee has crumbled further. CEO Patricia Ryan has now resigned from her 18 month, €120,000 salary job. NIB said didn’t we?! We said last week it was going to get silly and it has.

Not only has Ryan been resigned to giving up the job (and its accompanying cash) now there are allegations of phone hacking as someone let slip of her departure on a blog an hour before she made an official statement. It’s hardly whistleblowing on an Edward Snowden scale. Talking to RTE Radio 1 an artist involved described the whole thing as ‘like a big game’ before painstakingly going through each play; ‘the players have come out on the pitch . . . there’s been an upset . . . the whistle goes’ yeah we get the idea. It’s a game, Monopoly, the Limerick version. Continue reading

Government Penny Pinching May Do More Harm Than Good

covBackbenchers from Fine Gael and Labour have warned of impending trouble within the coalition over the issue of means testing for third level grants. The Government has indicated that proposals regarding the inclusion of assets worth over €750,000 are still being discussed – meaning farms and business assets could now come under scrutiny when applying for education grants. The issue first reared its head last summer and has once more come to the fore this week. Education Minister Ruairi Quinn has argued previously that farmers and the self-employed are not averse to manipulating their incomes to ensure their children receive third level grants. Continue reading

News in Brief: Ryanair Boss Lashes Out As Prince Willy Gets Set To Be A Daddy

Pregnant: Willie Wasted No Time

Pregnant: Willie Wasted No Time

An Garda Síochána to the rescue! The guards saved the day in a movie like sting this week just as a poor pensioner was about to be duped out of €5000 in a tarmacadam scam. In a crack down on fraudsters, uniform and armed officers (all with pants over tights of course and, News in Brief likes to imagine, accompanied by the Batman and Robin theme tune) were out in Waterford where they prevented the frail gentleman from parting with his cash in the nick of time. The suspects scarpered.

A former Fianna Fail councillor and chairman at IT Tralee has been defamed by no less than 26 professors who claim he plagiarised chunks of his thesis. This thesis makes up part of a degree paid for from his allowance from Clare County Council.

In some cases, the angered lectures allege, large pieces of the work by Flan Garvey are identical to previously published sources, including a whopping fourteen page segment that first appeared in a text from 1965. Mr Garvey certainly doesn’t get any honours.

Michael O’Leary has rained on the Gathering parade with a bizarre air of superiority (forgetting it’s himself that’ll be shipping tourists in to the economy boosting scheme).

Nothing if not controversial, the Ryanair boss has labelled the event scheduled for 2013 ‘The Grabbing’ criticising the increased taxes at Dublin Airport which will hit him directly. James O’Reilly, chairman of the World Mini Games that are coming to Cork next year (watch out Rio!) told O’Leary to ’cut out the negative bullshit’ a sentiment News in Brief shares but hopes Michael doesn’t take to mean toilets, seat cushions and pilots from all future flights.

Raindrops keep falling on my tent. It is the biggest tourist hub in the country and it’s also the wettest. Now Killarney is set to be covered in a giant heavy-duty, tent-like canopy so shoppers and tourists alike can keep dry while out and about. Local engineer Paudie O’Mahoney has devised the plan to cover the streets and encourage more “outdoor activities”, indoors. In a worrying prophecy Mr O’Mahoney said, ’I can see it taking off all over the country’. News in Brief isn’t keen on camping . . .

The biggest news story this week is of course the budget. If you were hoping for a Christmas miracle, forget it.
Millionaires will be targeted as will those at the other end of the spectrum earning under €18,000. Politicians will face stricter rules on expenses. Cigarettes, alcohol and fuel are all going up in price. Child benefit will be cut by €10 and medical card holders will see a rise in the prices they pay by 100%. Car tax is going up, dole will be cut, oh and elderly people will be given the chance to pay the property tax on their home from beyond the grave. And good will to all men.

“Last week she got a fringe, this week she’s growing her heir”. Kate Middleton, the future Queen, announced she is preggers. Some tabloids saw it coming when she got a new do – most women traditionally opt for a loose-fitting top, she went for a fringe. Anyway the poor old Princess was hospitalised with severe morning sickness. She was discharged last night although once she sees the papers she might need another visit.
While the Daily Mail speculated on what this meant for the context of those topless photos, on Twitter everyone was getting excited about the prospect of a Half Blood Prince. @RoyalFetus was born almost instantly with such insights as ‘burp’ and ‘I may not have bones yet but I’m already more important than everyone reading this’. Funny and true.

Budget 2012 Hints Test The Water

With the 2012 budget fast approaching members of the coalition government have been speaking about possible changes that may feature in the budget. Some see this as testing the water, gauging the backlash on certain cuts or taxes that have been considered. Others, such as Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath, calling these releases a “ deliberate softening up-exercise”.

So with the government aiming to reach a target of €3.8bn in spending cuts (€1.6bn) and tax increases (€2.2bn), just what potential implementations have been mooted so far?

Health

Health minister James Reilly is believed to be aiming for cuts of circa €500 million in the health service and there is apparently disagreement between Minister Reilly (FG) and Brendan Howlin (Labour- Public Expenditure Minister) on how to meet €500m of health cuts.

Minister Reilly has spoken of the possible introduction of an annual charge of €50 on medical card holders. Given there are some 1.5 million medical card holders in the country that is an annual additional income of circa € 75 million per annum.  Which is just under one sixth of the target of €500m.

This potential move has been criticised by many including Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients Association who has said that many will not be able to afford such a charge.

Others, such as Dr. Mark Hannon wrote in the Irish Medical Times in May of this year that even small charges for medical care can help prevent serious abuses of the health system taking place.

Another change suggested for this budget is to apply an increase of €1 or €1.50 on prescription charges for those on medical cards. This has also caused much uproar, for the same reason as the flat medical card fee in that those with medical cards possess them because of poor financial circumstances, and as such are not in a position to pay an additional fee for prescription medication. Lest we forget that last year also saw the introduction of a  50 cent fee on prescription items for medical card holders. This would prove especially crippling to those with long-term illnesses.

Minister Reilly has come under particular criticism for this proposal as earlier in the year he had repeated his intention to press ahead with his pre-election promise to abolish prescription charges for medical card holders.

Minister Reilly has also said that some community nursing units around the state are going to be closed down. However, he added that there would be no more hospital closures in this budget. Health Service Executive chief executive Cathal Magee said that a capital investment of between €600 million and €900 million would be required to bring many nursing units up to the required standards and that there were “significant challenges around the viability of units when you get below 50 beds”.

Mr. Magee also pointed out cost benefits to the customer to pursuing many private options as opposed to underperforming State-run units saying that under the Fair Deal scheme the cost per patient per day in a private nursing home was €850 while in the public system the cost was €1,350-€1,400 and in some smaller facilities up to €1,800.

Social Welfare

The Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton is believed to have the unenviable task of having to plug a gap of €1.6 billion in the Social Insurance Fund.  This covers areas such as Jobseekers Allowance, Worker Illness and disability.

Minister Burton said “I can plug this hole either by increasing rates of PRSI, reducing benefits or reforming the system. My preference is to reform the system.”

It is believed that she is looking to reform the PRSI system (which pays for the above) by widening the net to make certain types of unearned income such as rent profits and dividends liable to PRSI.

It has also emerged that Minister Burton is looking at a proposal to transfer responsibility for paying sick pay from the Department of Social Protection to individual employers in the first four weeks of an employees illness. The proposal would take at least a year to get up and running but is projected to save the exchequer €150 million in 2013.

This has not gone down well with Employers representatives.  Brendan McGinty of Ibec said :

The issue for business here is that it is a straight hit to the bottom line, it is going to increase employer costs in terms of the cost of employment.

Isme chief executive Mark Fielding said:

To further add to costs when businesses are struggling to stay afloat, maintain and create employment, is daft. It is as if the Government have a ‘death wish’ for the small business sector.

Another option the coalition are believed to be looking into is the possibility of cutting the child benefit allowance by €10. It is perhaps this possible proposal that has received the biggest backlash, especially given Labour leader Eamon Gilmore’s election pledge that he would not allow Fine Gael to cut child benefit rates. As such, the possibility of this cut has also lead to apparent unease within the Labour party.

Independent TD for Dublin North Central Finian McGrath said that child benefit helped to reduce poverty levels for poor families and went on to ask Taoiseach Kenny whether he accepted that child benefit was not a slush fund for the rich but was a huge help to families, particularly those women and children at risk in dysfunctional families where the partner or husband controlled the purse strings.

Representative McGrath also added that :

It’s a bit rich and a bit hypocritical to be talking about children’s rights referendums in the future when you’re planning to take €10 off these poor families.”

However, Cabinet Minister Leo Varadkar commented that should the child benefit be cut, that certain measures could be taken so that it may be partially offset by increases in other payments targeting the most badly-off families. An example of this is the possibility of increasing means tested payments such as the Family Income Supplement.

Possible support came from children’s charity Barnardos, saying that they would be willing to support some cuts in child benefit if it resulted in a more targeted system, according to its chief executive at an Oireachtas committee in November.

V.A.T

The government has spoken of the possibility of increasing the VAT rate in the country by 2% to 23%.

The Taoiseach said the VAT increase would not apply to food, children’s clothing or services, but would apply to goods like televisions or washing machines where people make choices. He said he believes income tax increases would kill jobs and he wanted to get people off the dole and back to work.

Mr Kenny also said that currency fluctuations have a greater impact on cross border trade than VAT increases.

It appears the government may have been listening to warnings about further hits to income tax from  the  Irish Tax Institute, which had previously warned that Government’s reliance on income tax is probably at an unhealthy level.

Gov has said it won’t touch income tax with Income tax now representing 40 per cent of the overall tax take compared to 29 per cent in 2007, despite the decline in the number of people at work.

According to figures compiled by the Irish Tax Institute, budgetary cuts over the last four years have cost one-income families on the average industrial wage €453 per month on average equating to a 16 per cent reduction in monthly take-home pay.

Bernard Doherty, president of the Irish Tax Institute, said there had been a dramatic impact on people’s ability to pay in just four budgets.

“The capacity for people to bear more pain is running out as we approach an overall tipping point in terms of the money that can be taken from them in tax,” he said.

Public Sector Pay

In a statement last night the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said a core priority is to continue to tackle and reduce the overtime bill across the public sector after significant savings have already been achieved through better management and work place changes.

The McCarthy bord snip report recommended looking at cutting “liberal system of allowances” paid to new hires in the future, with regard to areas such as rent allowance, premium rates and overtime.

Government expenditure on overtime is to be cut by about 10 per cent next year with deeper cuts earmarked for the following year, 2013.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the huge salary savings would have to be discussed with unions as part of the Croke Park agreement. “All State organisations are well aware that there is a necessity to bring down costs of all kinds, including payroll costs,” the Tánaiste said.

“What the Government is seeking to do is to get the savings in payroll where they can be achieved but that will be done in the framework of the Croke Park agreement.”

 

These are just some of the issues and discussions that have taken place so far regarding the upcoming budget announcement. We can expect to hear more as we get closer to Budget Day 2011.

Upcoming Budget to Test Coalition?

Rumours abound of rising tensions between the governing coalition parties as a result of negotiations over the upcoming budget. This is in light of comments made my Labour TD and Minister for Energy, Pat Rabbitte who said he expects negotiations on the matter to be “extremely difficult.”

As part of the terms of Ireland’s bailout the government are committed to reducing the national budgetary deficit to a figure of 8.6 per cent of GDP. Initially it was envisaged that this figure could be reached with a budgetary adjustment  amounting to €3.6 billion, however the recently formed Fiscal Advisory Council now recommends an adjustment of €4 billion in order to reach the 8.6 per cent target.

The council is an independent public body which was created under the terms of Ireland’s bailout to monitor and advise the government on economic and fiscal matters, primarily regarding the long-term repayment of its debt. Upon analysis of the council’s recommendations it would appear it is very much of the opinion that harsh budgetary measures in the short-term should lead to long-term benefit for the country and a more rapid exit from our debt constraints.

The council recommends imposing additional cuts of €400 million along with the €4 billion in order to exceed this years targets and advises further cuts beyond those planned for the 2012-2015 budgets, in the belief that this strategy would be more beneficial to the country’s future.

The actual benefit of such severe cuts has been debated by many, some of whom believe such a contraction in the economy would actually prove to be harmful, perhaps even reducing demand and slowing recovery. This last point was even acknowledged by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan when he was questioned on the FAC’s recommendations. When speaking on the issue Mr. Noonan stated his position that the government would reach its committed targets even if “it takes more than the €3.6 billion to do so”.

It is this issue that has caused some unease with the labour party side of the coalition. Minister Rabbitte believes that these extra cuts, beyond what was planned, would actually be “counter-productive economcially”, he also stated his belief that “to do what we said we would do and to take out €3.6 billion in itself will be very, very difficult.” Minister Rabbitte also appeared to hint that any additional cuts may not have the backing of the Labour Party, stating that those proposing more cuts “wouldn’t have my support.”

Today Taoiseach EndayKenny was quick to deny any rift within the Cabinet over this issue and said that more information was required by the Government before any decision could be made.

Mr. Kenny said, “there is no split in the Cabinet. I think the question that Minister Rabbitte was asked yesterday was a clear question and was answered with the level of information that was available to him.”