Election 2020: FG and FF manifestos to promise billions in spending

Promises include health and childcare spending, and raising the tax threshold

Striking the right note: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar  local candidate Emer Currie (both left) with members of a ukelele class  at Castleknock Community College, Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Striking the right note: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar local candidate Emer Currie (both left) with members of a ukelele class at Castleknock Community College, Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are set to announce manifestos for a five-year term of government that will both be heavily tilted towards spending increases over tax cuts.

The two parties will on Friday publish their manifestos, just over two weeks out from polling day in the general election.

Fine Gael’s manifesto will say it will spend €5 billion of €11 billion in unallocated money available over the lifetime of the next government on the health services, as it seeks to claim it will pump more into the sector than Micheál Martin’s party.

The €5 billion will go towards 5,000 additional nurses; 3,840 primary care workers; one million extra home help hours every year; increasing the limits on medical cards and GP visit cards with wage inflation; restoring the thresholds for the medical cards for the over-70s to 2012 levels; 2,600 beds and other measures.

Fianna Fáil will pledge to reduce capital gains tax from 33 per cent to 25 per cent and increase the universal childcare subsidy from €20 per week to €80 per week over five years, as well as extending the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme from 38 weeks to 40 weeks.

Pay deal

Overall, Fianna Fáil will split the available resources on a four-to-one basis in favour of spending increases over tax cuts. Senior Fianna Fáil sources said a portion would be held back for a new public sector pay deal and “other issues”. The party says it will allocate health and housing €2 billion each of the €11 billion available.

Meanwhile, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has said he will stick to the plan to increase the retirement age to 68 over time should he be returned to office. Fine Gael has said it will introduce a transition payment equal to the State pension for those who retire at 66 but may fall short of the pension threshold.

“If we begin to undo that particular change [making the retirement age 68] it will create challenges for us in the future regarding how we honour pension commitments that we have now, never mind the fact that we would have more people in the future looking for this pension,” Mr Donohoe said in an interview with The Irish Times.

Fine Gael’s manifesto is also set to be hugely tilted towards spending increases, with the €5 billion health pledge taking up almost half of available resources.

The main taxation element of Fine Gael’s manifesto will be to raise the threshold at which people hit the higher rate of income tax to € 50,000. Its overall tax package is expected to be in the region of €3 billion.

Standard rate

On taxation, Fianna Fáil will cut the 4.5 per cent USC rate to 3.5 per cent and increase the standard rate income tax band by €3,000; increase the home carer’s tax credit to €2,000; increase income tax exemption limits for over-65s by €500, as well as a €600 rental tax credit and a €2,000 childminder tax credit.

Fianna Fáil would also ban vaping and e-cigarettes for the under-18s; pensioners would get a €5 increase in the State pension every year; and a new infrastructure commission would be established.

The manifestos come almost a fortnight out from the February 8th election and days after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar raised the prospect of a grand coalition between the two parties.

Senior Fine Gael sources concede that the Taoiseach’s coalition offer, while genuine, was in part a tactical manoeuvre designed to put Fianna Fáil’s message of “change” under pressure. They believe that while the prospect of a “grand coalition” between the two big parties could drive change-seeking voters towards Sinn Féin, this is likely to cost Fianna Fáil votes, rather than Fine Gael.

However, Mr Varadkar is adamant that he will not facilitate a confidence and supply agreement to allow Fianna Fáil to lead a minority coalition if Fine Gael has more Dáil seats than its main rivals.