Budget debates

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Fuel cut ‘crude and cruel’

Barry Cowen (FF, Laois – Offaly) described the cut in the fuel allowance as ‘crude and cruel’.  Although the government had promised to publish a strategy on fuel poverty, all we had was a reduction in the weeks of the fuel allowance from 32 to 26.  Although the minister had claimed that the weather had improved since the government came to power, he was not enough of an expert on climate change to advise that the weather would improve sufficiently to enable a six week cut in the fuel allowance.  


Child poverty statistics had been increasing in parallel with  and as a consequence of the cuts in child benefit, said Aengus O’Snodaigh (SF, Dublin SC).  The vital role of child benefit could not be overstated in terms of reducing child poverty and as a vital local economic stimulus.  The minister could have reduced consultants pay to €150,000 for €100m, saving the cuts to child benefit.  Changes to the earning disregard would force lone parents and their children into long-term welfare dependency.  It had been introduced to tackle an identified unemployment trap and the minister was defying orthodoxy and reinstating a poverty trap.  His constituency had 38% of families as single parents, double the national average.  


Joan Collins (PBP, Dublin SC) spoke of the Book of grievances and hope campaign run by community development projects.  The idea went back to the French revolution, when people put their grievances into a book to show how the wealthy were beating them down.  She quoted children who had written into the book of Kilbarrack CDP:


Please, Santa, can you afford me this year?

My mam and dad cannot afford to buy me new winter clothes

My mam lost her job as a special needs assistant

You do not know how many lives you are ruining

Please do not shut our club

Dad has no money.


Joan Collins said she wanted to read them into the record because it was important that children were feeling the brunt of the cuts made in the house.


Maureen O’Sullivan (ind, Dublin SC) drew attention to the reports of TASC that stressed the cumulative effect on low income groups of not just this but of previous budgets, for this was not the first such budget.  She quoted Siegfried Sassoon, who spoke of the guzzling generals of the first word war, but we had their equivalent – the very wealthy, high earners and directors – who were not hurt by the budget and would not be struggling and who could go on their with guzzling. Some sectors of society had been hurt very badly and the pain it caused was disproportionate.  The community sector was being further eroded and The Wheel had highlighted how cuts would have a cumulative effect while the VAT increase would reduce the incomes of charitable bodies that could not reclaim VAT.