Budget measures will be felt in homes right across Limerick

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

Finance Minister Michael Noonan with Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin on Tuesday ahead of the announcement of Budget 2016. Picture: Irish Times
ALTHOUGH local announcements in Budget 2016 were thin on the ground, the measures announced by Finance Minister Michael Noonan will be felt in homes right across the county.

ALTHOUGH local announcements in Budget 2016 were thin on the ground, the measures announced by Finance Minister Michael Noonan will be felt in homes right across the county.

No doubt with an eye on the General Election, the Limerick TD announced a raft of measures which will make the local workforce better off, the most notable being cuts to the unpopular Universal Social Charge (USC).

In a bid to put this in context, Mr Noonan said the reductions will mean workers will see the equivalent of one extra weeks pay in their salary each year.

There are also increases to the state pension, child benefits, and the Christmas bonus.

The only rise in the pre-election statement is a 50c rise on packets of cigarettes, with the proceeds of this going to fund health-related programmes.

There has been criticism from some groups that the Budget does not go far enough, with the secretary of the Limerick branch of Ireland’s largest trade union Siptu, Paul Gavan saying “it does not go far enough”.

He said while the union welcomes the tax measures to give relief to low and medium earners, and investment in childcare, “overall, it’s a missed opportunity to tackle the growing inequality in our society.”.

“The government had one last opportunity to tackle inequality and they missed it,” he added.

The old age pension will rise by €3 to an average of €222 per week, while the fuel allowance will also rise by €2.50 each week.

But Peter Quinn, of the Limerick Senior Citizens Club - whose members met at the Pery Hotel in Glentworth Street on budget night - described the rise as “miserly”.

“From the reaction in my age group, they would much have preferred for the government to keep their €3 and give it to the less fortunate children living in the hotel bedrooms in Dublin and elsewhere, and help the housing situation,” he said.

Many older people, Mr Quinn added, are reliant on up to ten prescriptions a month.

He said: “The €3 would practically only cover one prescription. What about the other nine? A lot of people might have to do without, because they simply do not have the money.”

At the other end of the spectrum, some 2,200 new teachers will be hired, in a move which - it is hoped- will reduce the pupil-teacher radio to 18-1 in secondary school and 28-1 in primaries.

While Pat Millane, principal of Christ the King national school in Caherdavin welcomes this, he believes more could be done.

“It would have been helpful too if the minor works grant was restored. It is a small grant to fix things which are broken. Also, the capitation grant per pupil in school, which covers heat, light and general expenses, is wholly inadequate,” he added.

The government will also reduce one of the more controversial cuts it made in recent years, with the respite grant for carers going back to €1,700. Carers will also see a tax credit rise to €1,000.

Regional manager of the Carers Association Collette Devlin said the respite restoration is key.

But, she added: “We are disappointed however to note that there is no announcement in the budget in relation to replacing the mobility allowance and motorised transport schemes, which were closed to new applicants in 2013, and no significant new funding for community care alongside the €300m capital investment in HSE-run long-stay residential centres.” Finally, Limerick will share in a €50m fund to hold its centenary commemorations.