Labour rifts expected over budget plans
Labour is facing a backbencher revolt over proposals to reduce child benefit and for further health cuts in the budget.
A number of TDs said last night they expected the party to suffer more defections on the budget vote to add to the four Dáil members who have already lost the whip.
The numbers involved are expected to be small and should not therefore endanger the Government majority.
However, at least one backbencher said that, based on the details of the budget leaked so far, he saw his immediate future outside the parliamentary party opposing cuts rather than defending “the indefensible”.
Party advisers have been telling TDs that Labour had to concede in pre-budget haggling with Fine Gael on its demand for an increase in the universal social charge for high earners in order to safeguard social welfare rates.
However, some deputies say the money used by increasing the charge could be used to minimise health cuts affecting home help hours and services for the disabled.
Another deputy, Clare TD Michael McNamara, warned that it would be “very hard” for him to accept across the board cuts to child benefit when more progressive measures such as simply taxing the benefit were not considered.
One deputy said “middle Ireland” would be hardest hit in the budget, through cuts in child benefit, the introduction of a property tax and a reduction in threshold for PRSI.
Another pointed out that before the last election, party headquarters had sent him posters saying “Protect child benefit – vote Labour”.
One Dublin TD said his view of the budget would depend on “the detail” to emerge this week. “The big changes tend to be poverty-proofed, but often it’s the small cuts that cause the problems, and where we’ve slipped up before,” he said.
Mr McNamara was critical of budget leaks that suggest there won’t be an increase in taxation and in particular an increase in the USC for those earning over €100,000 a year.
“I expect a very robust discussion of the proposals at the parliamentary party. When I received a nomination, I undertook to vote with the parliamentary party and I intend to abide by that.
“However, it could be a mistake to pre-empt what the decision of the parliamentary party collectively will be on this.”