Delay water charge refunds to pay health overspend, Howlin says

Plans for tax cuts should be abandoned for investment in services - Labour leader tells think-in

The Government’s ‘mantra’ that the €300 million shortfall in the HSE budget will be met by savings in the system by the end of the year is not ‘anyway sustainable’, Brendan Howlin said. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

The Government’s ‘mantra’ that the €300 million shortfall in the HSE budget will be met by savings in the system by the end of the year is not ‘anyway sustainable’, Brendan Howlin said. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The repayment of water charges should be delayed this year with the savings invested instead to meet overspends in the health service, the Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin has suggested.

Speaking at his party’s think-in, in Athy Co Kildare, Mr Howlin also said that plans for tax cuts in the Budget should be abandoned in favour of further investments in public services.

Mr Howlin said that the water charges must be refunded, but they should be delayed until next year because of funding pressures in the health sector, which is likely to need extra money this year, he said.

“I don’t think anyone could object to that,” he said.

The Government’s “mantra” that the €300 million shortfall in the HSE budget will be met by savings in the system by the end of the year is not “anyway sustainable”.

“I think there will be a supplementary budget for health this year, let’s face that,” Mr Howlin, a former minister for Public expenditure, said.

Labour would produce an alternative Budget that ruled out tax cuts, he said.

“Our priority is to improve public services,” Mr Howlin said. “I don’t think there is space for tax reductions.”

“Income tax reductions are so expensive that the impact on the individual is tiny. So the notion of giving individuals the equivalent amount of a cup of coffee a week, rather than investing in housing or in health or in infrastructure, would be a very big mistake,” he said.

“Whatever resources we have, we will devote entirely to improvement s in public services and rebuilding our infrastructure,” Mr Howlin added.

Labour TDs and senators are meeting in Athy in advance of the resumption of the Dail later this month. The party will also select its candidate for Kildare South, Mark Wall.

Non-government non-governing

“This might prove to be a real Dail session,” Mr Howlin said,” because in the last 12 months we’ve had a non-government non-governing and a Dail that could find consensus on precious little. I think that has to change. We need a different type of politics than we’ve had from the last 12 month.”

Mr Howlin said that his target remains to double the number of Dail seats and double the number of councillors.

He said that Labour was not ruling any party in or out as potential coalition partners after the next election.

“The notion of ruling people in and out from our position, I think is an arrogance,” he said. The party would see after the election what its options for joining a coalition are, he added.