Lobby groups: What they want

A look at various sectors and the lobby groups involved

Most lobby groups surveyed said they had face time with senior ministers

Most lobby groups surveyed said they had face time with senior ministers

Mon, Oct 14, 2013, 08:32

EMPLOYERS & BUSINESS

What they want

Ibec has called for no further increases to labour costs such as statutory sick pay, and for tax credits for R&D to be improved to underpin Ireland’s attractiveness for investment. The Small Firms Association is seeking the creation of a State-backed investment bank to provide access to credit, and a focus on cuts rather than tax rises.

Recent experience

The removal of a PRSI exemption last year was seen as something that placed upward pressure on wage costs but these fears are yet to be realised. Cuts to private sector pension reliefs were seen as tough on the self-employed. A reduced State redundancy rebate was seen to have put pressure on firms seeking to restructure.

Word on the street

Suggestions that PRSI could be increased, particularly for employers, by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton are a concern. One of Ibec’s proposals, a budget adjustment of €2.6 billion, is to be bettered and a 2:1 formula of cuts to tax likely. A reduced capital gains tax for entrepreneurs starting new firms is expected.

Who they met

The SFA outlined its proposals to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and presented them to the Oireachtas finance comm- ittee. Ibec held discussions with Mr Noonan, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan and Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton.

Quote

Budget 2014 must clearly signal that the end of austerity is in sight. This is so businesses and consumers alike can plan ahead with certainty Ibec economist Danny McCoy

AGRICULTURE

What they want

The Irish Farmers’ Association is calling for farm support schemes to be maintained at current levels, incentives for dairy farmers to invest in expansion, for capital gains and acquisitions taxes to be made favourable to encourage land transfers, and it will continue to oppose means testing of assets for third-level grant eligibility.

Recent Experience

The IFA says expenditure on farm support schemes has dropped by 18 per cent or €119 million since 2011 and farmers feel their interests have been disproportionately hit despite the sector’s contribution to the economy. Increases in personal income taxes have hit those in agriculture like other workers and the IFA has called for no more this year.

Word on the street

The Department of Agriculture is understood to need to find some €54 million in savings but there is some hope this may be eased after the Government agreed a lesser overall adjustment. There is hope that a scheme can be established to support the suckler beef sector but funds for this will have to come from somewhere

Who they met

The IFA said it met Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, Mr Noonan and Mr Howlin. Taoiseach Enda Kenny and others likely heard some views during recent visits to the National Ploughing Championships.

Quote

It is clear that decisions have been made over the past two budgets to directly target the farm schemes to achieve the savings required in the agriculture budget. It is unacceptable that such disproportionate cuts have been imposed IFA prebudget submission

HOSPITALITY & RETAIL

What they want

The Restaurants Association of Ireland and Retail Excellence Ireland have both said the rate of VAT on food and hospitality needs to be kept at the 9 per cent (down from 13.5 per cent) level so as to preserve jobs and keep down costs. The RAI says excise duty should also be cut and calls for greater investment in chef training programmes.

Recent experience

The VAT cut to 9 per cent has been a success for the sector and is said to have helped create up to 15,000 jobs. The extraction of funds from the economy has left punters less able to spend on nights out, and a €1 levy placed on bottles of wine in last year’s budget is said to have created further hardship. Reduced spending has hit retailers hard.

Word on the street

Mr Noonan has been non-committal and said maintaining the 9 per cent VAT rate would be costly and require an increase in taxation or a reduction in expenditure elsewhere. Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar says he will fight to keep it. Increases on excise duty have long been safe bets for governments seeking to raise tax revenue.

Who they met

The RAI said it met Mr Noonan and Mr Varadkar and almost every TD during the prebudget process. Its “Keep VAT at 9 per cent” campaign has been endorsed by local authorities across the State.

Quote

Restaurants all over Ireland are relying on the VAT to remain at 9 per cent for the survival of their business RAI president Pádraic Óg Gallagher

SOCIAL PROTECTION

What they want

The Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed wants no cuts to social welfare, rent supplements to adequately address accommodation needs, and greater training opportunities. Age Action seeks the reversal of last year’s household benefits package cuts and a property tax exemption for those with an income below €12,000. The Disability Federation of Ireland wants the standard of living of people with disabilities protected.

Recent experience

The cumulative effects of years of cuts to services have taken their toll on these groups as much as, if not more than, any others in society. Age Action says changes to fuel support payments have had a significant impact on those relying on the State pension. Reduced home-help hours have increased difficulties for older and disabled people who live alone. Child benefit cuts will have further tightened the situation for the unemployed.

Word on the street

Ms Burton has repeatedly said core welfare payments will be protected but her department is said to be seeking savings of some €300 million next year. Continued success in lowering the Live Register figure will ease pressure and savings will likely be found in reductions to the range of supplementary welfare payments available.

Who they met

Age Action said it met Ms Burton, Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte and officials from the Departments of Health and Environment to put its point across. The DFI presented its prebudget case to the Oireachtas committees on finance and health. The INOU met Ms Burton, Mr Noonan, Mr Howlin and Mr Bruton.

Quote

We cannot accept the reduction of the Government deficit as a marker of success, when it is at the expense of a damaged social infrastructure and the creation of further inequalities in society Disability Federation of Ireland

CONSTRUCTION

What they want

The Construction Industry Federation is seeking a VAT rate of 9 per cent for the sector for two years, an enhanced capital allowance for energy efficiency works on commercial buildings and measures to help jobless craftspeople keep social welfare entitlements while retraining.

Recent experience

No area has experienced a shutdown like construction. Spending on capital projects, which the sector has become increasingly reliant on for activity, has fallen by some 60 per cent since 2008. The end of mortgage interest relief for new buyers put extra pressure on property activity.

Word on the street

There is some confidence that Mr Noonan might introduce a VAT cut to stimulate activity. A retrofitting programme would also be welcomed and there is cautious optimism that capital gains tax relief for investors introduced last year for two years could be extended.

Who they met

The Construction Industry Federation presented its case to Mr Noonan, Mr Howlin, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and a number of other ministers. The group also had interactions with a range of TDs on both sides of the house.

Quote

One in four of the people on the Live Register are former construction workers. If there was more construction activity taking place they could move seamlessly from the dole queues to the ranks of the employed with the minimum turnaround CIF

EDUCATION

What they want

The Union of Students in Ireland seeks no further cuts to maintenance grants and for the back-to-education allowance to be protected. Early Childhood Ireland seeks changes in legislation supporting preschool services. The National Alliance for Primary Education – parents, teachers and management – has called for a halt on plans to cut primary education.

Recent experience

The student contribution fee has been repeatedly hiked in recent years and the criteria for qualifying for third-level grants have become tighter. Overall spending on education has fallen steadily and class size increases in small schools are of concern to teachers. The fall off in school funding has started to bite, particularly in the past year, and parental bailouts are not as easy to come by.

Word on the street

A figure of €100 million has been floated in relation to education savings and Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn will hope a reduced overall adjustment finds him some breathing room. The student contribution will increase by a further €250 this year but it is expected there will be no rise in the pupil-teacher ratio. Savings through Haddington Road will lift some pressure.

Who they met

USI spoke to Mr Quinn, lobbied TDs and Senators at its prebudget session and members have been doing so locally also. Primary school groups put their points across to Mr Quinn, Mr Noonan and Mr Howlin.

Quote

The maintenance grant has been cut – either in rate, threshold or eligibility – in each of the last four budgets. It has been pared to the bone and beyond USI prebudget submission

HEALTH

What they want

The Irish Heart Foundation is seeking additional taxes on tobacco and junk food and incentives to eat healthier. Mental Health Reform wants services to be protected and the roll-out of a national mental health information system. The Irish Medical Organisation seeks capital funding to reconfigure hospital services and resources for suicide prevention programmes.

Recent experience

The IMO says Government expenditure on health has fallen by about 10 per cent or €1.5 billion since 2009 and there are 11,000 less people employed in the area. The numbers accessing health services is rising, however. Taxes on tobacco and alcohol products have been hiked but the effects of drinking and smoking continue to put strain on the health service.

Word on the street

The health budget was one of the last talking points and Minister for Health James Reilly is under pressure to save some €500 million. More than half of that is expected to come from the non-pay side and will be made up of savings on the drugs bills to manufacturers, higher costs for private facilities in public hospitals, and cuts in some services.

Who they met

The IMO, Mental Health Reform and the Irish Heart Foundation all presented their prebudget cases to the Oireachtas finance and health committees. The foundation held a meeting on the subject of tobacco with Mr Noonan. Mental Health Reform had informal talks with Minister of State Kathleen Lynch.

Quote

Despite the efforts of the Special Delivery Unit in reducing waiting times, there are signs that the hospital system is overstretched and that waiting lists are on the rise again IMO prebudget submission

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