Updated: 11/10/16 : 05:45:53
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Government faces first Budget test today

As the Government parties, Fine Gael and Independent Alliance with a major influence by Fianna Fáil, finalise details of today's Budget it would appear that in an effort to secure the 'grey vote' the elderly are to receive significant gains.

A €5 increase in the weekly pension will come into effect in March following agreement by the Government who wanted to defer the extra payment until June and Fianna Fáil who wanted a January start.

Over 70s will pay a maximum of €5 per month for medicines.

A Christmas Bonus will be paid to pensioners and everybody on long-term social welfare, the rate will be 85pc of the allowance. This will be paid in the first week of December.

A new childcare subsidy will be made available to families with a combined gross income of under €80,000. The subsidy will be capped at €8,000 per family, with those on lowest incomes receiving the most.   

Other changes expected to be announced today include;

Jobseekers' allowance up by €5.
Self-employed to receive PRSI benefit for the first time
A first-time house buyers' grant of up to €20,000
A 2pc reduction in tax on savings.
Home Care Tax Credit to be increased by €100.
Home Renovation Scheme to be extended until 2018.
€20m for the National Treatment Purchase Fund to reduce hospital waiting lists.
A rise in the threshold for inheritance tax to €310,000 for parents leaving assets to their children and a 10pc increase in other categories.

There will be cuts to the Universal Social Charge to benefit all workers for incomes up to €70,000pa.

All parents with children aged between six months and three years in childcare will be entitled to up to €900 in State subsidies a year.

The poorest families will receive €8,000 annually under the budget’s childcare arrangement. Minister for Children Katherine Zappone’s plan will see all parents, no matter what their income, receive some subsidy from the State.

Carers, the disabled, the blind, widows, guardians of orphans, and people on invalidity and illness benefits will see their payments jump by €4 or €5 in the second quarter of 2017.

Cigarettes are expected to rise by 30 cent possibly 50 cent.

Funding is to be announced for 800 extra gardaí, 1,000 nurses and 1,400 new teachers, including resource teachers and special needs assistants.

The Irish Independent says that Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar will also announce a series of extra benefits for lone parents.

These include:
■ A €5 increase to the One Parent Family Payment and the Back to Education Allowance;
■ An increase in the income disregard for the One Parent Family Payment and Jobseeker's Transition payment, representing a further potential increase of up to €10 a week;
■ A new €500 annual Cost of Education Allowance will be made available to Back to Education Allowance participants with children.

It is understood Health Minister Simon Harris had not budgeted for a reduction in prescription charges when his bid was finalised by Paschal Donohoe last week. Mr Harris had favoured investment in services rather than a cut in charges. However, Independent Alliance TDs arrived at Government Buildings with a last minute demand on the issue, leaving the minister stunned.

Sources told the newspaper that it was agreed to limit the reduction to the over-70s at a cost of around €13m a year. They will see their monthly payments limited to €20, compared to younger medical card holders who pay up to €25.

Age Action, which has campaigned for the removal of the charges, has previously said they were "a tax on being sick, a tax that has gone up 500pc since it was introduced in 2009".

Fianna Fáil is expected to abstain on today's Budget after tough negotiating with Fine Gael.

A post-Budget Breakfast will be hosted by Sligo Chamber of Commerce tomorrow, Wednesday (7.30am - 9.30am) in the Sligo Park Hotel. Martin Coggins of Coggins & Co will be the speaker.

Details and bookings: email info@sligochamber.ie  or Tel: 071 9161274