Party finance spokesman Ged Nash told reporters this morning he was “very concerned” at reports that increases to core rates would be €10 to €12, arguing that last year, despite one-off payments, the Coalition was later forced to introduce a “form of mini budget” in February because of “the inadequacy of the social welfare increases that they approved”.
Mr Nash said welfare increases should be calibrated by establishing “income adequacy” with reference to the minimum essential standards of living. He suggested that on this basis core welfare rates should increase by at least €20 per week, in line with what is being sought by many advocacy groups.
“Listening to some Ministers and commentators in recent weeks, one would think that the cost-of-living crisis has somewhat dissipated. It hasn’t, there are significant sections of this society in a permanent cost-of-living crisis because of low pay, because of difficulties in terms of accessing affordable housing and childcare and the kinds of social services that we take for granted in other countries,” he said.
Mr Nash said speculation the universal social charge (USC) is set to be cut is “equally concerning” as it would “erode” the amounts available for the budget while polls were showing demand among voters for investment in services.
Labour will unveil its alternative budget on Thursday, he said, arguing the main justification for altering the USC would be to introduce small adjustments there and in PRSI to ensure those experiencing increases in the national minimum wage would not be penalised.
He called for a move towards taxing wealth in line with recommendations by the Tax and Welfare Commission, which reported last year, although he acknowledged that such an approach would be “fiendishly difficult to design”.
“It is extraordinary that Government is talking about narrowing the tax base at this moment in time when Government Ministers repeatedly tell us that they lie awake at night worrying about the windfall tax from the corporation tax base,” he said.
Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the party’s spokesman on justice, warned that disputes with criminal barristers and rank-and-file gardaí could see a series of rolling industrial actions, including the “unconscionable situation” of not having Garda overtime on Halloween, the day, he said, when the risk of antisocial behaviour was at its highest.
“We have a complete collapse today in the criminal justice system,” Mr Ó Ríordáin said, with criminal barristers and gardaí engaged in industrial action. He said Minister for Justice Helen McEntee seems to be a “bystander” to the processes, with no engagement from Government with the gardaí or barristers.
Marie Sherlock, the party’s spokeswoman on culture, said tax breaks for filmmakers should be linked to improved conditions for actors when it comes to residual rights arising from films they make and the revenues they generate over the longer term.
Ms Sherlock said there had not been a “proper transposition” of the EU’s copyright directive, which was “botched” more than 20 years ago, and now Ireland “stands apart from most other EU states” when it comes to the intellectual property rights for actors and others associated with their creative work.