Manifesto proposals will increase inequality
Speaking in reaction to today’s launch of the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s manifestos, the leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin, said that both parties were trying to buy votes while causing a grotesque rise in inequality.
Brendan said: “It is not the time to cut taxes, with nearly 4,000 children in homelessness and hundreds of thousands of people waiting for health appointments. Yet both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are promising tax cuts to the better off to buy their votes.
“Fianna Fáil is going to slash Capital Gains Tax by a quarter, which will only benefit the wealthiest in society. This measure is also likely to reduce available money for healthcare and other services by around €100 million every year.
“Fianna Fáil’s plan for a First Time Buyer’s SSIA will simply cause prices to rise by €10,000 and all the benefit will go to those selling property and the owners of building land. What’s worse, those who simply can’t afford to save due to high rents will get nothing from this policy. In the absence of sufficient supply, the proposed €600 rent tax credit will just push up rental costs and go into the pockets of landlords, without much real benefit to tenants. Fianna Fáil have refused to freeze rents, which shows whose side they are really on. Funding both of these measures will also take money away from frontline services like health and education.
“Fianna Fáil’s plan to double the National Treatment Purchase Fund is a clear signal that they do not intend to invest in local healthcare services. Instead, they will pay for people to travel abroad or to Northern Ireland, or to private hospitals. The over-reliance on private practice is rapidly privatising what should be core public health services. There is a huge inefficiency in duplicating public services in private hospitals, but that is what Fianna Fáil’s proposal will do. This will do nothing to fix the real problems in our public healthcare system.
“Meanwhile Fine Gael is planning a massive tax giveaway by slashing gift tax and inheritance tax for the wealthiest households. They are planning to reduce these taxes by 40% for people who are given between €250,000 and €585,000. That will give the wealthiest individuals up to €43,550 by the time this is fully implemented. This is not entrepreneurial gains but money given or inherited only by those at the top of society.
“Fine Gael’s proposed income tax cut by expanding the standard rate to €50,000 will give a massive tax break to high earners and not a cent to the large majority of workers. Leo Varadkar had the arrogance to claim that this was ‘for the many, not the few’. This is a lie. Revenue statistics show that only one in five income earners pay any tax at all at the higher rate. While this may rise, tax bands are routinely expanded in line with inflation to minimise the numbers paying the higher rate of tax.
“Only yesterday, the ESRI calculated that exactly these changes to income tax would increase income inequality. They will make Ireland as unequal as the UK, further away from Northern European countries like Denmark or Sweden. Fine Gael’s tax cuts will also leave a gaping €2.5 billion hole in the public finances that will mean less money for housing or healthcare.
“Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have shown their true colours today. Both of them are drawing on the same set of ideas as the current British Conservative Party. Both of them are moving Ireland further away from European norms. Both of them are weakening the tax base at a time when the economy faces multiple risks from Brexit, international trade and climate change.
“Labour offers a responsible alternative. We will launch our alternative public spending proposals and our manifesto in the coming days. We will show how public spending can be focused on building 80,000 social and affordable homes, eliminating long-term homelessness, and fixing the public healthcare system by recruiting the staff it needs. But first and foremost, we will stop the waste of public money that has been demonstrated by Fine Gael in government with the Independent Alliance, and by Fianna Fáil on every occasion it has gone into government.
“Labour is the party that introduced Freedom of Information and we restored it when Fianna Fáil tried to destroy it. We will radically strengthen transparency so that the people can see value for every euro of public money. Labour will demonstrate how we can build an equal society through better public services, but the first step is restoring the people’s confidence in how their money is being spent.”