Michael Noonan delivers final budget of 31st Dáil

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, presenting Budget 2016, at Government Buildings.  Photograph courtesy of the Irish Times
CUTS to the Universal Social Charge (USC), increases to child benefit, pension rises, and restoration of much of the Christmas bonus are all features of Budget 2016.

CUTS to the Universal Social Charge (USC), increases to child benefit, pension rises, and restoration of much of the Christmas bonus are all features of Budget 2016.

Limerick TD Michael Noonan delivered the final budget of his first term as Finance Minister this afternoon.

And with an eye on the next election - now expected in the New Year - Mr Noonan announced just one tax increase, a 50c rise in excise on the price of a packet of cigarettes.

It is anticipated the rise - which comes into effect at midnight - will bring in €61.4m to be spent on health initiatives.

But there are no increases in the duty on alcohol, petrol and diesel.

The minimum wage is to rise to €9.15 per hour.

In his speech, Mr Noonan announced plans for Nama to build 20,000 social homes between now and 2020. But crucially, just 10% of these will be outside the greater Dublin area and the government’s plans for housing for Limerick remains to be seen.

Local Siptu secretary Paul Gavan has described Budget 2016 as “a missed opportunity”. “It leaves little on the table for a city like Limerick, and this ratio is disappointing,” he said, “This government had one last opportunity to tackle inequality and they missed it.”

Elsewhere, the Universal Social Charge (USC) will be reduced on all earnings up to €70,044 a year, a move which will see many workers better off.

People earning under €13,000 will no longer have to pay the levy, while those earning between this and €18,668 will pay a 3% charge.

The changes - which take effect from January 1 - will also see people earning up to €70,000 see their USC cut from a rate of 7% down to 5.5% in what is the headline initiative in Budget 2016.

Elsewhere, free GP care is to be offered for those up to the age of 12, while a free pre-school place will be given to children between three years and primary school starting age.

Meanwhile, parents will see a €5 increase in their monthly child benefit, raising the rate to €140 a month.

Parents with two or more children will get an extra €10 monthly. Pension payments go up by €3 weekly.

In a move described by Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan as being “good for families and good for Limerick,” some 2,260 new teaching posts will be created, a move which will reduce the pupil/teacher ratio.

An additional 600 gardai will be recruited, while the 12.5% corporation tax rate is to remain in place.

The Respite Care grant is to be restored to €1,700.

As for next year’s centenary celebrations, Limerick will share in an overall budget of €50m, following an announcement by Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin.

Mr Noonan said the budget will “provide stability to families across the country”, rewarding work, enterprise and innovation.