The Rural Independent Group has launched its Pre-Budget 2022 submission.
It is of the view that its proposals will provide a “regionally balanced and fairer recovery”.
The group of TDs believe Budget 2022 must bring a “new urgency of ensuring taxpayers resources are spent properly, guaranteeing punishment for those who do wrong and bringing forth equity and fairness in how we treat our most vulnerable”.
They are of the opinion that every citizen in Ireland deserves equal access to broadband, health services, housing, public transportation and a social safety net when they experience illness, old age or fall on hard times.
The TDs believe their budget proposals encompass these equality principles.
They have called for a raft of measures to support:
- Rural economy;
- Fast-tracked value-for-money infrastructural delivery;
- Eliminating chronic health waiting lists;
- Delivery of a substantially boosted recovery deal from Europe;
- Blocking any further carbon tax increases.
The group comprises:
- Mattie McGrath;
- Michael Collins;
- Carol Nolan;
- Danny Healy-Rae;
- Richard O’Donoghue;
- Michael Healy-Rae.
Group leader deputy Mattie Mc Grath said its “practical” submission focuses on supporting rural communities and addressing the “mounting challenges” facing every citizen.
Speaking ahead of the launch this afternoon (Wednesday, October 6th), he said:
“For far too long, rural areas have been forgotten due to mismatched policies adopted by successive governments.”
“Unfortunately, this has manifested into the creation of a two-tier economy and society in Ireland.”
“This was demonstrated, even during the pandemic, when our large multinational corporations were shielded from economic pain.”
Therefore, he added, it is crucial that any post-pandemic recovery is fair and leaves no community or citizen behind.
“We believe the 2022 budgetary measures must provide a concrete commitment to rural and regional equity and terminate government-inflicted urban bias, which compromises the scope of regional economies to exploit their potential and adapt to current and future challenges.”
He said there has been “chronic” under-investment in infrastructure across our regions, which now jeopardises and undermines the prospects for a post-pandemic recovery.
The group recommends increasing funding to €5 billion under the NDP Rural Regeneration and Development Fund to address this. He said this is currently insufficient at€1 billion over seven years.
The TDS are seeking €2 billion, ring-fenced for agriculture from the carbon tax fund, to be treated separately from CAP pillar II funding.
“We are also seeking proper funding for the suckler and sheep sectors and for farmlands of natural restraint.”
It is seeking a €300 per suckler cow payment, €30 per ewe and a €300 million fund for ANC to support farmers with disadvantaged land.
“Undoubtedly, we believe the government’s energy policies and carbon tax measures are already having and will continue to have, a crippling impact on every low to medium-income Irish households, as well as farmers and small businesses.”
Therefore, the group recommends a zero increase in the carbon tax in Budget 2022.
He warned that the government’s plan to add a further €7 per tonne or a staggering 21% to the cost of carbon in 2022 would hike costs even further during an energy price crisis.
“Furthermore, to tangibly assist households to reduce energy costs, the group recommends that VAT on all insulation products be reduced to zero and the SEAI grant schemes bolstered, with backlogs cleared.
Old-age pension and jobseeker’s
It recommends a universal €10 increase in all core social welfare payments, including the old-age pension.
“Ultimately, this would set Ireland on the correct path to benchmark social welfare rates to 27.5 per cent average weekly earnings over two years.”
Also, the social protection discrimination against our young people must cease, he added. Thus, the government should increase jobseeker’s rates for all those under 25 to the full rate.
Pre-Budget 2022: Health services
“At the same time, the waiting list scandal blighting our public health service must be tackled with urgency and resources.”
“The fact that one in five citizens (almost 1 million) are on a public health waiting list is truly shameful.”
It is also seeking an increased budget of €85 million for mental health. The TDs have requested a strategy of how Ireland will move from under 6% (of overall health expenditure) to 12% by 2024.
It wants a full independent review, identifying cost savings of €2 million per annum from ministerial advisors’ salaries.
The group also wants a “much better deal” than a 0.12% share of the €800 billion EU Recovery Fund.
It has called for a €28 Billion European solidarity Bond, where borrowing costs are guaranteed to roll over for 50 years or into perpetuity at current rates and not to exceed 0.1% interest.
Pre-Budget 2022: Other proposals:
- Expedite the delivery of the national broadband plan across rural Ireland, with a deadline at the end of 2022, instead of the 2027 (or longer) government target;
- €25 monthly increase for each child in the children’s allowance payment to support families;
- From January 2022, increase the standard tax rate band from €35,300 to €37,065;
- Also, 1,000 additional Rural Social Scheme places;
- Decentralisation of up to 10,000 civil servants (25%) by the end of 2027 to support rural and regional development in a “tangible” way;
- Finally, grant-aid to renovate houses in rural towns and villages and old housing ruins to increase housing supply.