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Sinn Féin: Alternative budget supports workers and families

Wednesday, 14th October, 2020 2:34pm

Main opposition party Sinn Féin released their alternative budget on Monday showing how it would run the country if in power.

The party said it would support workers and families to help them get through this crisis by, for example, reversing the cut to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, immediately increase the pay of childcare workers to the living wage of €12.30 and cut the cost of childcare by one-third in 2021, and ban rent increases for three years.

It said it would also support businesses, especially sectors most badly effected by Covid-19 and create jobs, as well as roll out capital investment programmes across a range of areas like housing, hospitals and schools by creating more than 26,500 jobs while meeting the needs for affordable accommodation, future health service capacity and smaller class sizes.

It said in its budget that it would reduce VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector from 13.5 per cent to nine per cent at a cost of €320 million. The party also said it would replace the Stay and Spend Scheme with a tourism and hospitality voucher to every adult and child worth €200 and €100 respectively, which it said would cost €522 million.

Its alternative budget would also extend the commercial rates waiver until June which would cost €520 million.

Sinn Féin claimed in its budget that it would “deliver a proper winter plan for our health services and provide funding to deal with dangerously expanding waiting lists, disability services, cancer care and mental health”.

Speaking about it during a virtual Cork launch of its alternative budget, Cork TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said: “What we’ve proposed in our alternative budget is 1,100 additional hospitals beds including 100 additional ICU beds. When we cost beds, we’re not just costing the equipment but the staff too which would be €449million current and €425million capital. It’s a significant investment but undoubtedly needed and it’s needed urgently.

"We also want to recruit an additional 2,500 doctors, nurses, consultants, and allied health professionals.”

The party’s budgets also mentioned an additional investment in mental health, which Deputy Ó Laoghaire said has come under “very severe pressure this year”. He said the added investment would include free counselling on foot of a GP referral.

Sinn Féin would also increase funding for disability services to meet costs of Covid-19 including day services, respite, personal assistance hours. As for housing, Sinn Féin claimed it would “deliver affordable housing on a scale not seen before”.

This would include 12,000 social homes, 4,000 affordable rental homes and 4,000 affordable purchase homes which it estimates would cost an additional €1.5billion.

During the virtual launch, Cork TD Thomas Gould, criticised former governments for never being “ambitious enough” in setting out a plan which would solve the housing crisis.

When asked by the Cork Independent if it was fair to criticise the present government on this, given building sites were shut for weeks because of Covid-19, Deputy Gould indicated that it’s not just this year he was criticising but the past decade.

He also questioned what the current government did to help businesses, like those in the construction industry, to be Covid-19 compliant so that they could reopen. “Housing and health have been two of the biggest crisis that we’ve faced and the government still don’t get it,” added Deputy Gould.

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