By Frances Toner
There was no surprise when Fine Gael TDs in Mayo responded extremely positively this week to Budget 2015, which has been hailed as bringing to an official end the successive years of austerity measures
This was the first non-austerity budget since the economic collapse seven years ago.
Some of the measures which were most welcomed by Government representatives in the county included the retention of the nine per cent VAT rate for the tourism sector; boosts for the construction sector; the planned €2.2 billion spend on Garda resources; and tax relief on water charges.
Minister of State for Tourism, Michael Ring, said the nine per cent tourism VAT rate, first introduced in June 2011, is worth €2,250 for every €50,000 turnover to business owners in the sector.
“This extension of the lower rate will enable the industry to plan and to market for next year in the knowledge that Ireland will be able to offer lower-cost tourism options to tourists and local people who are frequenting our pubs, hotels, and restaurants.”
Last week, the Restaurant Association of Ireland said the nine per cent VAT rate had created 605 new jobs in Mayo and 21,633 jobs nationwide.
Deputy John O’Mahony described Budget 2015 as “fair” and a budget that would help families, low and middle income earners, the housing market, and the tourism sector.
“Raising the threshold for the top rate of tax to almost €34,000 will help thousands of people have a secure income, while cutting the top rate to 40 per cent also helps to ease the burden on hard working families,” he said.
“Another 80,000 people have been taken out of the Universal Social Charge net.
“Over 1,000 new teachers and teaching assistants will be hired, and the capital investment programme will see more schools repaired and built.
“There will be more gardaí on the streets, and hundreds of new Garda vehicles will be purchased - helping to make communities more secure.”
Other measures welcomed by Deputy O’Mahony included incentives for foreign direct investment as well as indigenous start-ups; water charge reliefs; incentives to boost the construction sector; a committment to provide more social and affordable housing; and a part reversal of some social welfare cuts.
He said: “This is now the first in a series of budgets designed to secure the recovery, make it real for families across the country and build for the future.”