Budget must give people hope

Comment & Opinion

UNITY NEEDED The inevitable tensions caused by the impending Government reshuffle must be put aside for Budget 2023.

With the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions earlier this year, the summer felt more normal than the summers of 2020 and ’21.
Towns and villages across Mayo were able to welcome back visitors from across the country and further afield, and the decent weather we experienced over the summer months brought a certain buzz back to the many events that took place, from festivals to clan gatherings.
However, the war in Ukraine and its exacerbation of the living crisis has meant a real sense of uncertainty is again in the air as people get ready to face what could indeed be a long winter.
Naturally, the Government has come under increased pressure to give the population some hope in Budget 2023, due to be revealed in seven days’ time.
There is talk that a once-off financial package of close to €3 billion could be made available to help households struggling with the cost of living crisis. Talks are continuing across all government departments to help to draw up a final list of badly needed supports.
Many of of these supports have been publicly aired in the last number of days, including credits for electricity bills in October, December and February, as well as a double payment of the State pension, weekly Social Protection payments and Child Benefit in either October or November (in addition to the regular double payment of weekly Social Protection payments at Christmas).
Tax cuts also seem to be in offing, with Ministers considering increasing standard income rate bands by €2,500, as well as increasing personal tax credits by €100 for single people to €1,800 and €200 for married people to €3,600.
Current reductions on ticket prices on public transport are expected to continue, while excise cuts on petrol and diesel are set to be extended too.
Last week, the Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath said the budget measures would be targeted at those most in need, including families with children, but he said there is an understanding that many people are experiencing financial difficulty and the budget would reflect that.
The public can only hope that the Government’s acute awareness of the severe pressures faced by many will translate into solid, targeted measures – measures that will put more money in their pockets and help those who really need it to deal with the winter and the myriad of problems it is potentially set to bring.
The impending Government reshuffle will mean there will be tensions behind the scenes between the three parties charged with passing Budget 2023. But this cannot be allowed to get in the way of the really important work that is needed to get the country back on its feet, and make the impending winter manageable for families right across the country.