Dublin, 15 October 2014
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White today (Wednesday) welcomed Budget 2015 as the "first recovery Budget" and said the era of public service cuts was over. Speaking in Dáil Éireann this evening, the Minister and Labour TD for Dublin South said it was a progressive budget with reliefs targeted at low and middle income earners who had shouldered a very considerable economic burden in recent years.
"We said that austerity would not last forever and would not be in vain. It is a testament to the resilience of the Irish people and the sacrifices they have made, that we are now entering a period of recovery," he said.
Minister White said the Budget had balanced economic growth, employment and debt reduction while supporting low and middle income earners. "The tax cuts are progressive measures that target low and middle income earners. The increase in the Universal Social Charge (USC) threshold will take 80,000 out of the charge altogether. In total, this means that 410,000 people will have been taken out of the USC since 2012.
"Middle income earners who continue to pay USC will pay less. The first rate of USC will fall from 2% to 1.5% and the second rate of USC will fall from 4% to 3.5%. Proportionately the benefits of tax relief are far greater for low and middle income earners than for those earning more than €70,000 a year," he said.
He welcomed increased spending in education, €800 of new social housing investment, and measures to continue boosting employment in 2015. "It is this Government's hope that unemployment will soon be below 10%. I am confident that the measures in Budget 2015 make reaching this vital milestone more likely," he said.
He announced that his department's Better Energy Warmer Homes scheme, which provides free energy efficiency measures to low-income households, will deliver upgrades to 10,000 homes in 2015, bringing to 118,000 the total number of households that have benefitted.
"The allocation for the Better Energy Programme will total €47 million in 2015, and will assist in energy savings of over 460 gigawatt hours next year – a significant contribution towards our 2020 energy efficiency targets. It will support an estimated 2,900 jobs and significantly reduce carbon emissions," he said.
Minister White said his department would play a central part in economic recovery by, among other things, working to ensure that high-speed, high-quality and future-proofed broadband becomes available to every home and business in Ireland, irrespective of their location.