Speaking on Budget Day October 12, Chambers Ireland CEO Ian Talbot said:“Chambers Ireland welcomes the Government’s commitment to supporting businesses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. This has secured jobs, prevented permanent closures and provided an opportunity for the country to recover more quickly than anticipated. Our economy is in a strong position when it comes to taking advantage of the global rebound in growth.
“We support the extension of supports for business into 2022. The Employee Wage Subsidy Scheme and commercial rates waiver have been a lifeline to businesses in particularly hard-hit areas such as tourism and hospitality. We would argue that the minister should retain discretion over the pace of the tapering of these supports, through setting dates and levels in secondary legislation, so that should the unforeseen occur we will not need to amend primary legislation if we are to adapt – which was an issue with the closure of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme in 2020.
“Chambers Ireland is committed to flexible and inclusive workplaces and welcomes the Government’s focus on remote working by allowing individuals to claim up to 30% of household bills on days they work from home.
“Further development and implementation of its Remote Work Strategy will help the Government deliver for Ireland’s workers, businesses and communities. We believe that remote work has an important role to play in creating more sustainable towns and cities by not limiting work to geography. A national flexible working policy would strengthen this. It would also help to address skills shortages by providing a wider talent pool for employers.
Housing and vacant land
“The increase in spending on housing is a start when it comes to reducing the effect of the housing crisis. However, success here will not be measured in spending, it will be measured in the number of new homes that come to market.
“Should the government deliver the 13,500 social and affordable homes in 2022 that are projected, this will account for more than half of all homes that are expected to be built, but also only a third of those that are needed.
“We were disappointed by the 3% zoned land levy. It is pitched at a level which will raise revenue for the exchequer, while at the same time it is not high enough to incentivise the return of hoarded land to the open market.
“The price of land is the easiest part of the cost of housing equation for the government to influence and they have chosen not to do that in this budget. By treating it as a potential revenue stream, they create the problem where government policy is incentivised to support high land values.
“Our cities and towns need to be seen as the key drivers of our domestic economy, and not as cost centres. They need investment if they are to become the attractive places to live and work which we need them to be. This will need vision if it is to happen, not incrementalism.
Childcare and Parental Leave
“Support for the childcare sector, both for parents and employees is also welcome. This will help increase capacity within the labour market by allowing more parents to return to work while securing improved pay and conditions for staff in the sector.
“The early years of a child’s life are when government spending on them is most effective. They need to have high quality childcare if we are to see improvement in their education outcomes. This is why childcare has to become a skilled profession rather than a temporary role on the way to another career. Continued government support of wages in the sector is a critical part of this.
“We also welcome the increase to parental leave from five to seven weeks as this will also ensure that caring responsibilities are more evenly distributed, helping to remove the excessive burden that currently falls on mothers.
“These actions will help to reduce barriers to the labour market and provide parents with more choice and opportunities. It will also help to address skills shortages by bringing more people into the labour market who otherwise would not have the opportunity.
“The retrofitting funding is welcomed as part of the wider transition from fossil fuels but scaling this up will be hard. Over €200m in 2020 has been allocated to retrofitting, but this will see the upgrading of only 1% of the housing stock. The Climate Action Plan foresees 500,000 homes being deep retrofitted by 2030 which suggests that government policy on Climate Action has yet to become fully consistent with spending.
“The extension of the 9% VAT rate beyond December 2021 will be important to this sector in the coming year. However, we are uncertain that the sector will be able to maintain current levels of activity through Q1 2022 given that international tourism options are becoming available to Irish people again.
“The sector will then become more reliant on inward tourism across 2022 and it is yet to be established that the travel routes from abroad will have reopened to the extent required if the sector is to maintain a high level of activity.
“Given this, support for the aviation sector in Budget 2022 is very welcome. History has shown that once lost, these routes can be difficult to restore. Reopening these aviation routes as soon as possible will be fundamental if we are to retain jobs, support tourism and strengthen local economies.
“Ultimately, Ireland’s arts and culture output is a significant strength of our country and one of the most important parts of our tourism product. Opportunities in that sector were sorely limited due to the pandemic.
“Therefore, we greatly welcome the increased allocation in Budget 2022 as recognition of the rich contribution made by those who work in these areas.”