It appears that the agreed figure for the sheep sector of 25 million Euro will be paid but we are waiting to see what will happen with regard to the ‘forgotten farmer’ TAMS and the Beef Genomics scheme, whether the Minster will give the go ahead for action on those issues. I welcome the 2.9% new loan system for farmers but we have no detail yet but it is a short term loan system as far as we can see at the moment, There is a big question mark over the Fair Deal Scheme and what if any changes will be made in relation to farmers. We will hear what Minister Varadkar says when the estimates are published.
The money for the Sheep sector announced today was there when we negotiated the programme for Government and while the 25 million Euro is very welcome it is not new money as some TD’s are claiming. I welcome the provision for a break in the tax year for some farmers who have got into difficulty. But tillage farmers will have to be looked after because of the problems they are facing with crop failure. But we will see the full break down of expenditure in the next few days.
I am disappointed that the Minister did not address the pupil teacher ratio in smaller national schools.There is welcome provision for extra teachers but it is not a new announcement as we know that the number of pupils continues to grow. With regard to third level institutions there is additional funding provided but it is a very small allocation and I have proposed that these institutions will have to explore alternative ways or raising funds such as building additional accommodation for students.
I am very disappointed with the fact that the transport initiatives announced for Dublin are absolutely huge and the best of luck to them too but I can see nothing for projects like the N4 and N5 and the Western Rail Corridor and Knock Airport. We have seen road projects announced today that have been announced three times already and projects that are almost completed at the moment. I hear that there are extra funds available for regional and local roads but the increase is minimal. I await with interest to see the estimates to see what the real increase is involved- if any,
Sports Capital Grants
For a country that has been highlighting about obesity and the need for our children to take exercise it is alarming that the Sports Capital Grant Scheme is 17% less than the last scheme two years ago ( there was no scheme at all last year). Either we are serious about having our people take exercise or we are not, We have a sugar tax coming up yet we are cutting back on grants to sports clubs around the country It doesn’t make sense,
I had proposed that the number of hours that people are allowed to work should be raised to 20 hours a week but that has not been addressed in this budget and I will be looking for that to be addressed immediately.
I heard nothing today in the budget to address the disastrous situation with regard to A and E units around the country and the massive waiting lists. I welcome the fact that there is extra funding for the National Treatment Purchase Fund which will be a help but much more needs to be done,
Thankfully common sense has prevailed on the price of diesel. A month ago it looked certain that there would be an increase but I took the Government and the so called ‘Green Army’ on and thankfully no increases were made in this budget.
Middle Ireland have got very little out of this budget. They have about 3 Euro extra a week which won’t go too far, I welcome the aid for the first time house buyer but I hope it is handled properly. I will be hoping that people that are building once off housing in rural areas get the same tax breaks too. But remember that people will have to have been working for four years to qualify. The rise of 5 Euro per week in pensions and other Social Welfare payments is very little and only a token to be honest. With regard to Childcare I would like to see the total package when the details are released but remember also that the package announced today will not start until September 2017 which is less than a month away from the next budget. A lot of the announcements made today have been made in the past.
I am very disappointed the lack of spending on rural development and regeneration in this budget. On rural regeneration I spoke with former Minister Alan Kelly today and he told me that what he announced last year was not spent so it was announced again today. Anyone who got anything positive out of the budget today I welcome that but the scales are still tipping towards Dublin and the East coast when it comes to infrastructural development. We need a balanced spread of spending so everyone will benefit. I also welcome the initiative on bog relocation wherby people who want to sell a bog will benefit in terms of Capttal Gains Tax.
Those are my initial thoughts and when the details are revealed later this week I will have more reaction,
So overall while it was a budget that contained some good measures no one in rural Ireland will be getting too excited by what’s in it.