I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Budget as published.
Firstly, I acknowledge the work of my Independence Alliance colleagues in the preparation of the budget with our partners in Government Fine Gael and other Independents.
The budget as delivered is based on the Programme for Government and this budget has demonstrated the Partnership Government’s ability to deliver.
In my own Department the Budget recognises the importance of flood relief and I have succeeded in securing additional funding to put resources in place to deliver on our ambitions programme of flood relief works.
I want to re-assure the house that flood relief is high on the Governments agenda. This year my Department will have 12 major flood relief schemes under construction compared with 4 schemes in 2015. This is a mark of progress.
The €430 million Capital Expenditure previously announced for Flood Relief is still in tact and we will spend €50 million this year.I intend to continue to push on with Further Flood relief measures and will increase spending annually up to €100 million by 2019
I cite the fairness of this budget in implementing a suite of financial measures to help those most vulnerable in our society.
The reduction in the prescription charges, increase in the Christmas bonus to 85% are very important measures to compliment the €5 increase in pensions across the range of social welfare recipients.
The plight of farmers has been well documented and the measures go some way to assisting including the €25 Sheep grant, changes to the Farm Assist, 500 additional places on the RSS and the making available of cheap finance will help farmers over this difficult period.
The self-employed are also recognised as the backbone to job creation. The extension of Invalidity Pension, Dental, Optical and the Medical Appliances Scheme will be extended to self-employed. The increase in tax credits is also important.
The extension of the VAT Refund scheme for refurbishment works for another two years is to be welcomed together with the scheme for first time house buyers.
Finally, I accept that we cannot deliver everything required in one year. We, the Partnership Government commit to be a caring, just, responsible Government.