Ireland’s budget was dominated by preparations for Brexit.
Here are the main points:
A 1.2 billion euro package was announced which, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, will see 650 million euro for the agriculture, enterprise and tourism sectors, 365 million for extra social protection expenditure, 200 million to be allocated across a number of departments and agencies to increase staffing and upgrade infrastructure and 45 million for increased support for workers in adversely affected areas of the country, such as the border region.
– Climate change
The carbon tax will be increased from 20 euro to 80 euro per tonne by 2030, raising an additional six billion euro. There will also be five million euro for peatland rehabilitation, a 250% increase in the budget and the replacement of the 1% diesel surcharge introduced last year with a nitrogen oxide emissions based charge, which will apply to all cars registering for the first time from January 1 2020.
Some 2.7 billion euro will go to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, an increase of 384 million euro from 2019, to include nine million euro for sustainable mobility projects around the country, including greenways and cycling projects, an additional three million euro for electric vehicle infrastructure, doubling the number of local authority on-street charge points, a new scheme for chargers at apartment blocks and rollout of fast-charging taxi ranks at transport hubs and eight million euro for grants for individuals purchasing electric cars.
The Education Department will receive 11 billion euro, the highest ever allocation to the sector. This will provide for 150 new mainstream teaching posts, and includes an investment of 1.9 million euro in special education – providing more than 400 additional teaching posts to support those with special education needs, and 1,000 special needs assistants. Additional funding has been made available for school books in primary schools.
A further 20 million euro will be spent on homeless services, which will bring the total funding to 166 million euro in 2020. A further 1.1 billion euro of capital funding will be allocated to social housing to support the building of more than 11,000 new social homes next year. And an additional 80 million euro will go to the housing assistance payment scheme.
Tusla will get an additional 94 million euro in 2020, bringing its allocation to over 184 million euro to support the reduction of the number of children to social workers ratio, and address cost pressures in private residential and foster care. Funding and early learning care will increase by 54 million euro, to support full participation of children with disabilities under the Access and Inclusion Model, and to support the National Childcare Scheme.
The help-to-buy scheme has been extended in its current form for another two years to the end of 2021. To date, some 15,000 new homes have been purchased or built by first-time buyers under the scheme.
The police force in Ireland will see its budget increased by 81 million euro in 2020, a 4.7% increase. This will deliver up to 700 new Garda recruits, and extra civilian staff to allow for more frontline policing. The broader justice sector will receive an extra 38 million euro, an increase of approximately 4.8%, to fund increasing costs in Direct Provision and greater levels of activity in courts and prison services. An allocation of 265 million euro will support capital projects in a new Forensic Science Laboratory, the redevelopment of Limerick Prison and new Garda offices in Harcourt Square in Dublin.
Health expenditure is set to increase by 6.3% to 17.4 billion euro next year. The Government is to spend another 25 million euro on the National Treatment Purchase Fund to help reduce waiting lists. Prescription charges are to be reduced by 50 cent. The monthly threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme is being reduced by 10 euro a month. The threshold for medical card income for people over the age of 70 will increase by 50 euro for one person or 150 euro for a couple. This will benefit up to 56,000 people. Free GP care is to be expanded to children under the age of eight and free dental care for children under the age of six.
– Social welfare
The social welfare package will increase by 690 million euro next year. Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe confirmed the payment of a 100% Christmas bonus to all social welfare recipients in 2019. The living alone allowance will increase by five euro while the one parent family payment will go up by 15 euro. Fuel allowance will increase by two euro a week.
The price of a packet of 20 cigarettes is to go up by 50c from midnight.
There will be an increase in home carer tax credit of 100 euro, bringing the value up to 1,600 euro. For the self-employed, there will be an increase in earned income credit of 150 euro, to bring the value to 1,500 euro. Both increases will cost an additional 27 million euro in 2020. There will also be an extension of the reduced rate of USC for medical card holders for a further year to December 2020.