'Short on Ambition, Fails to Tackle Housing Crisis'

10 Oct 2017

Government Buildings Budgeting for the future

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has said that Budget 2018 fell “short on ambition and short on the measures needed to raise living standards and tackle the many deficits in our society.”

Responding to the measures announced in Budget 2108, Congress General Secretary Patricia Kings said: “What we needed was a game-changer on housing and investment in better services, but instead we got a series of small measures that will not address our high cost of living, which is already above the EU average.

“At a minimum we needed to see the government commit to an emergency programme of social housing provision with a target of 50,000 homes over five years, along with a series of measures to penalise land hoarding, in order to tackle the biggest single crisis facing our society.

“The change in the Vacant Site Levy is a step in the right direction, but of itself it will do little to solve this very serious problem,” Ms King said.

“Overall, the measures in Budget 2018 will do little for those who are homeless and those who find it impossible to find an affordable home.

Equally, it will not address the high cost of housing for tens of thousands of people. If government does not deal with this at a national level, then trade unions will be forced to deal it at the level of the workplace.

“The tax measures announced will not improve living standards for the low paid, with workers on approximately €25,000 benefiting by just €1 per week while those on 70,000 plus stand to gain €6 per week.

“This money would have been far better utilised tackling barriers to workplace access – such as still high childcare costs – and delivering better education and health services to the wider population,” Ms King explained.

“Overall, the choices made in Budget 2018 represent a bad use of the resources available to government, particularly as repeated polls have shown a clear majority prefer investment over tax cuts. Our public investment is at 2% of GDP and would need to double just to catch up with the EU average of 4%.

“The Budget was also a missed opportunity to bring an end to the scandalous practice of subsidising major, profitable corporations in the hospitality and tourism sector, at a cost to low paid workers and taxpayers.

“There is no case whatsoever to persist with the reduced 9% VAT rate for this sector, as the greatest benefit accrues to wealthy hotel chains, with no evidence of jobs created or of benefits passed on to the overwhelmingly low paid workforce or consumers.

“This is a dreadful waste of money and has cost us more than €2.2 billion since it was introduced in 2011.

“The increase in the Minimum Wage – as recommended by the Low Pay Commission – will benefit some 155,000 low paid workers and is a positive step, but Congress is concerned that changes to the Board & Lodging provisions may see them lose out. We note this latter measure was not recommended by the Low Pay Commission.

“Congress is also concerned that the greater say being granted to business in third level course provision, arising from an increased Education Levy, could have implications for the quality of courses delivered,” Ms King concluded.