Labour Budget Submission

The Labour Submission is here

Key points:

700 million jobs fund for employment subsidies and placement schemes
1.3 billion reduction in pay budget
1.3 billion reduction in capital spending through lower tender prices
900 million reduction in non-pay spending (list given at end of document)
Reinstate Christmas Social Welfare Payment (240 million)

Third rate of income tax (48 per cent kicking in at 100k for single and 200k for couple)
Abolition of a number of tax expenditures
Carbon Tax

50 replies on “Labour Budget Submission”

It seems churlish, or maybe just naïve, to ask what is the evidence that supports these policies? These proposals, after all, are probably no more or less based on evidence than those that will be brought in by the government shortly. Although the latter clearly has more resources to engage in evidence based policy making. €700m for active labour market labour policies (ALMP) sounds good and will appeal to the “something must be done” brigade – of whom I am one. But I would sleep much better at night if, instead, say €300m was spent on labour market policies that had been shown to have a good chance of being effective. The confusion between input and output is unlikely to go away.
Reinstating the Christmas Social Welfare Payment seems – baa humbug- a vote winner but has little else to recommend it.

There is a brilliant line in the document where Labour say that tax exiles must contribute €100m. This is then used in their funding figures. No detail provided as to how this €100m would be captured, through what means. Just that tax exiles must pay that much.

Why did they stop at €100m – why not demand €200m, €300m or whatever? No rationale is given as to why that amount is picked, it just seems to have been plucked from the sky.

@John the Pessimist,

Same applies to the proposed magical €1.3bn saving on public sector pay. Departments will be ordered to cut 6% or so off their pay allocation, according to Eamon Gilmore, but with no indication provided as to how the savings are to be achieved or how this squares with the central policy tenet:

“While it is necessary to reduce the public sector pay bill, this should be achieved through negotiation, and as part of a process of public sector reform. There will be a requirement for significant flexibility in staff deployment to bring this reform about.”

Fits very well with Jack O’Connor’s summation of ICTU strategy in his Pat Kenny interview that ‘a cut in pay is not the same as a pay cut’.

“There will be a requirement for significant flexibility in staff deployment to bring this reform about”

I will vote for the party that suggests they might actually cut PS numbers. All they seem to mention is pay cuts across the board. There are inefficiencies in there. Every organisation has them after a decade of growth. Private sector companies are trimming down but not across the board – they take out the non productive areas first.

Natural wastage is random and unplanned. What happens if 1000 nurses leave, can hardly replace them with 1000 admin officers!

I would like to see a breakdown of public service numbers. Just how many management/admin staff are there?

Health Service with (what?) 110,000 employees but only 40,000 frontline (Doctors, Nurses, SWOs). I know those figure are not accurate but what do the rest do?

How many IT staff are employed by the HSE?

How many payroll clerks & supervisors?

How many accountants and assistants?

How many “change management” managers?

Are any of them necessary in delivering health outcomes?

Some rhetorical questions.

What is the age profile of Public Servants?

How many are due to retire in the next five years?

What is the current unfunded actuarial liability of that cohort?

@ Greg

the Economist had a piece last month touching on that very subject, and apparently, at an overall PS level, we’re actually quite lucky in terms of the age profile (in thats its quite young relative to other EU countries).

Dont know what the pension fund liability is for the group approaching retirement right now, but at an overall level its €105bn for the PS as a whole.

I see they are proposing to reduce the relief on investment properties to 25%. I believe it has already being reduced to 75%.

What does this actually mean in practice?

If Landlords cannot offset losses against profit then rents have to go up, or else landlords go out of business.

Is it the intention of the LP to destroy the residental property rental market? If so how are all the unsold propertys going to be sold?

Or does it really matter at all?


The Greek Socialists won office in October last on promises that they would solve Greece’s problems by, within the first 100 days in office:

– raising taxes on the wealthy and eliminating tax sherlters that favoured with wealthy,
– debt relief programmes for SMEs and idnividuals with personal debt/mortgage type problems,
– increases in public sector pay & epnsions (undoing a freeze on public pay introduced by the outgoing administration in March)
-investing €1bn in education
– enact a promise to hire an extra 3,000 nurses to the health service.

They proposed a €3bn ‘stimulus’ package plus €1bn for capital expenditure on public works. The long term objective is to stimulate the econmy to create the conditions that will allow Greece to be transformed into a vibrant ‘Green Jobs’ economy.The conservatives campaigned for an austerity programme that would focus on the deficit, privatise remaining State assets and introduce further labour market flexibility.

The budget currently being pushed through Parliament by the Socialist administration envisages adding a further €47 bn (of which €16bn is for interest payments etc. on existing debt) to borrowing to cover next year’s deficit. The EU is wringing its hands in despair; ineffecutally perhaps, but wringing its hands nonetheless.

The stimulus cum no cuts approach appears a common theme among Socialit Party responses to the current crisis in small countires anyway, which is probably why the the LP’s Budget formula sounds eerily familiar.


Apologies for all the misspellings! I was in too much of a hurry to go back over what I’d written and correct the typoes. It’s all that multitasking…

Is it not terrifying that Labour have produced such an incredibly shoddy document?

The €100m contribution from tax exiles beggars belief. Even the Cloud Cuckoo Bridge like E34bn or whatever he’s calling himself at the moment would blush.

Why not also seek an amendment to the Constitution to guarantee us three months of decent weather during the summer?

Whatever you think about the Fianna Fail cowboys who got us into this mess, this document doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that Labour are the party to lead us out of the gravest crisis in the history of the State.

@ Bond. Eoin Bond

Thanks for the link. Interesting article.

I suspect that we are lower down that table because of relatively high public sector recruitment in the last 20 years. Just a guess.

@Concubhar it would be worth clarification from Labour as to what the 100 million from exiles means in practice. The document implies (but does not state explicitly) that this could be achieved by implementing the Commisson on Taxation’s tightening of the tax residency rules.

“A Home Guarantee, with statutory backing, that people facing difficulties in meeting mortgage repayments will not be put out of their homes for the period of the recession.”

How long will the recession last? How will that banks and mortgage companies value mortgage loans in delinquency? Will interest accrued on delinquent loans be counted as revenue in their financial statements? How will they fund delinquent loans?


The DoF pre-budget statement contains figures for increases in staffing levels in health, education etc. during this decade. Likely to confirm that your ‘guess’ is correct.

“Public Pay. There should a negotiated agreement to secure savings in the public sector wage bill, that would be based on securing reforms and savings, and on ensuring a more efficient public service for the future”

That didn’t work out too well for Fianna Fail & the Greens? Good job for Labour they didn’t have to negotiate €1.3bn of “pay” cuts.

@ Veronica

Another guess. The older public servants are the higher paid. They would represent a disproportionate amount of the unfunded pension liability and want the younger less well paid recruits to pay for their retirement. Oh, and they don’t want basic pay cut because that will eat into their pension pots.

Put another way. How many public servants over the age of 55 “earn” less than €50k per annum? Very few I suspect. But they’re still happy to take 7% in pension levies from younger less well paid public servants.

“Capital Budget savings through lower tender prices” = €1,246mm

“Savings of 17% in tender prices on capital spending”

That’s €7.3bn of a capital program in 2010.

Surely many of the tenders for “ready to go” capital projects for 2010 will have already been agreed.

@ Veronica,

Thanks for your comment about a common trend among socialist parties within small European countries. Unfortunately I would tend to agree with your comments.

I am of the same opinion as most of you, it is very dissappointing to see the LP offering little credible alternative to the present Govt.

Irish people are getting sick and tired of the spin, double speak of political parties. Is it any wonder people are so cynical.

Either the LP are devoid of serious suggestions to aid the country or they are still stuck in the game of winning elections. Maybe they are just trying to capitalise on a mob atmosphere of anger which is present in the country at the moment. Despite the fact that they have had several months to prepare their submission for budget day it has proved to be dissappointing. I suspect they have their focus on winning a popularity contest among the other parties, they are not interested in the budget, only winning the next election.

This strategy is not without its merits, the current establishment continues to weaken, so a general election could be in the offering before the summer.

However they must be aware that the more ridicule the LP gets from economists will not aid their master plan.

As for taxing tax exiles, some things do not add up. Back in February / March, Gilmore stated that 200M could be raised from taxing the exiles. Again it was unclear if this was a definite calculated figure or sums done on the back of a fag packet. Now it is down to 100M, again source unclear. Something must have changed in the meantime. Either these exiles have little money or the possibility of obtaining the money is not feasible due to double taxation treaties. Another possibilty is maybe they are thinking of reintroducing the Foreign Earnings Deductions scheme which was scrapped in 2002 /03. Hence the reduction from 200 to 100M.

Maybe we were just been had, used to wip up a frenzy (a hate meeting) by the LP against something which was not really there at all.

Another point, suggesting to cut relief on contributions for Union membership? Is this not a swipe at the Unions? I find it strange that they would have a go at a group they are most aligned with! Unless of course they have no intention of acting on this when obtaining the reigns of power.

Labour have always been good at vision and poor at implementation. Perhaps they need more experience trying to implement their vision. I think they will get it pretty soon!

“1.3 billion reduction in capital spending through lower tender prices”
This concerns me a little.

Capital spending is due to halve next year from this year. This is largely, I believe, due to projects completing and new projects not being tendered for. Does the remaining 7.7 billion of capital spend relate to ongoing projects or to new projects? If it relates to ongoing projects, there aren’t going to be many tender savings available…

Tender prices are more likely to rise, they cannot fall more. Recent tenders are way below cost and almost all builders on public contracts have been burning working capital at a huge rate.

“Immediate abolition of all property reliefs as an emergency measure”…

assume we could throw in eradication of CGT avoidance on primary homes and transfers between spouses too?! … badly thought out.

€865m raised from “Property Schemes” and “Reductions in Property Relief”? Really? In the year after a property bubble just burst? Where is this coming from? Come on Joan, we know you lurk here….

Full disclosure: I am Parliamentary Assistant to Joan Burton TD, Deputy Leader & Finance Spokesperson of the Labour Party

€100m from tax exiles

There are currently circa 5,800 tax exiles in Ireland. Like Fine Gael, who have advocated a €20m contribution from tax exiles in their own 2010 budget submission, the Labour Party believes that during an economic emergency these people should be called on to make some financial contribution to the public purse.

€100m would constitute an average contribution of less than €17,500 per tax exile.

This contribution could be raised through the tightening of non-residency rules, through a flat rate contribution, as in the UK where a £30,000 tax on ‘non-doms’ was introduced in 2008, or a combination of the two.

€1.3bn public sector pay

Labour has accepted a target of a €1.3bn reduction in the public sector pay bill for 2010 and has insisted that this be achieved through a negotiated settlement between the stakeholders.

As such, one would not presume to dictate the terms of am agreement at the outset of negotiations, much as any Government would do – and has done.

Eamon Gilmore has confirmed that, should negotiations be unsuccessful, reductions in the pay bill would then be achieved through the unilateral implementation of a uniform reduction of 6.85% in the pay allocation of all govt. Departments and agencies.

@ Veronica

“The stimulus cum no cuts approach appears a common theme among Socialit Party responses to the current crisis in small countires anyway, which is probably why the the LP’s Budget formula sounds eerily familiar.”

Far from proposing ‘all stimulus and no cuts’, the Labour Party is proposing €2.1bn in current spending cuts – €1.3bn from the public sector pay bill and €899m from non-pay current spending.

And yes, Labour is proposing economic stimulus through the creation of a €1.15bn (full year) ‘jobs fund’, roughly half of which would consist of labour intensive capital projects.

Labour is proposing a gross full-year adjustment in the order of €5.8bn, of which €1.45bn would be ‘added back’ through stimulus measures.

@ capsubsidy

“€865m raised from “Property Schemes” and “Reductions in Property Relief”?”

The figure of €435m for property schemes was provided by the Department of Finance.

The figure of €430m for ‘Modifications & Reductions Investment Property Relief’ is an estimate of revenue to be raised from the reduction of mortgage interest relief to 25% (from 75% in the case of residential property at present and 100% for commercial property)

At a time when most homeowners, bar first-time-buyers, have had their mortgage interest relief phased out, Labour is advocating that this ‘phase out’ be extended to investors.

😳 you’re quite right. Serves me right for looking at the headline figure. I hope I can be forgiven for failing to count bank recapitalisation as capital spend!

I think the point is still valid, though. How much of the capital spending is new spend that is being tendered for and how much is continuation under the NDP (e.g. I presume CIE subventions? payments for low volumes under PPP?).


Labour has accepted a target of a €1.3bn reduction in the public sector pay bill for 2010 and has insisted that this be achieved through a negotiated settlement between the stakeholders.

Interesting that the insistence on a negotiated settlement seems to trump the maintenance of existing service levels. I would have expected the latter to be the primary concern.

@ yoganmahew

I would have to forgive myself first. Ok. Done. You are forgiven.

“Greg Says:

December 5th, 2009 at 7:41 pm

Capital expenditure reducing from €14.6bn to €7.7bn.”

Not being expert at these things I was also thrown by the idea that an “investment” in Anglo Irish of €4bn could possibly be described as “Capital Expenditure”. I can think of a lot of other ways to describe it, “A complete and utter waste of money” would be one of the more polite.

@ Vic Duggan

“At a time when most homeowners, bar first-time-buyers, have had their mortgage interest relief phased out, Labour is advocating that this ‘phase out’ be extended to investors.”

If it is your intention to raise revenue on trapped investment you will have limited success and will also succeed in driving many buy-to-let investors to bankruptcy. That ought to help the banks. Mind you that will be after the Supreme Court challenge on retrospection.

If it is your intention to eliminate private investment in the residential market you will be 100% successful.

If it is your intention to eliminate private investment in commercial property you will find equal success.

If I borrow money at 4% and invest for a yield of 6% can you think of any reason I would bother if I am going to be taxed as if my cost of funding were 1%. Are there not other opportunities for investment both here and abroad?

If I borrow €1mm to invest in plant and machinery would you say that the interest on the borrowing was not tax deducible?

Sounds like nonsense to me.

The fact that the DoF provide numbers in not an indication of sensible policy.

“Ireland must effect a major economic transition – from a property-dependent economy, to an export-led economy.”

“That means building strong indigenous firms, as well as attracting Foreign Direct Investment. It means putting in place infrastructure that complements the knowledge economy, and ensuring that investment is channelled towards enterprise and infrastructure. It also, crucially, means investing in people, at all levels of skill and learning.”

What will be produced for export that the East cannot produce for one quarter of the price?

What sector will produce indigenous firms strong enough to compete with China? Do we have the cheapest labour and capital in the world?

Perhaps it’s because were Irish. Obviously we are 10 times smarter than the Chinese. We produce more engineers and scientists from our universities.

Not true is it.

The West including Ireland has lived high on the hog of cheap Chinese imports and cheap Chinese credit. China is mercantilist. We’re not smarter. We’re not more productive. And what’s more we can’t be.

@Vic Duggan

All credit to you for having the cojones to identify yourself and put your case out there.

They’re an unforgiving/merciless lot on this board, and quite rightly so if someone can’t make their case stand up….. and some of them don’t take too kindly to ‘pinko lefties’ policies (of which, I have to admit, I am one) 🙂

Is there not more mileage on the tax break side of things? I thought I read somewhere the other day a figure not unadjacent to 7bn in tax breaks doled out in Ireland?

For example, complete removal of tax relief on pension contributions. The right will no doubt scream blue murder and that it would damage the financial services industry terrible etc. but would it really? Would people actually stop saving for their retirement? I bet they wouldn’t. After an initial sulk they would just continue on with it.

I say squeeze all (all) tax breaks really hard and see what pips squeek. Things can always be reversed if they really cause a problem. Most of the right wing shouting is usually just that….. shouting. It has more to do with personal loss than what’s actually good for society.

Anyway…. enough of the politics on a Sunday morning.

I’m not looking forward to 2010 in Ireland. I suspect it’s going to fall in on itself.

@Vic Duggan,

If the Labour Party budget document followed a pattern of response among socialists in other small economies in the EU as to the best way to deal with the current economic crisis, then at least there might be something to be said for it in terms of ideological coherence. But it doesn’t seem to be about that; and is more about a populist response than anything else.

Any fool can come up with figures of €4bn, or €5.8bn, simply by writing them up on the back of a packet of fags, as has already been noted in the comments above. Credibility rests on the actions proposed to achieve the desired result. Most of the comments here and elsewhere in the media have been directed at the lack of credibility of Labour’s proposals – in marked contrast, incidentally, to the reception accorded to the Fine Gael document. Like it or not, you can see exactly where their cuts are coming from, the economic case that underpins them and the concept of social fairness that informs them.

It’s also hard to square Labour’s commitment to a €5.8bn adjustment with Joan Burton’s Dail statement in the pre-Budget debate that: “The Labour Party accepts a deficit reduction target of €4 billion as long as the actual measures do not cause even further contraction in the economy.” A statement, incidentally, that implies no cuts at all are acceptable since some deflationary impact must be a given. €5.8bn implies an even bigger deflationary wallop.

Labour’s approach to the €1.3bn savings in public sector pay seems to have been based on the incorrect assumption that the ICTU unpaid leave approach would carry the day. Apart from being a major political mistake and misjudgement, since it aligns Labour with the deeply unpopular and widely discredited leadership of the public service trade unions, it does not excuse the failure to specify how the €1.3bn should be achieved. FG, to be fair to them, set out a line by line framework, which exempts lower paid earners in the public service from any further pay cuts. Gilmore’s alternative – to direct Departments to cut 6% plus from their respective pay budgets – sounds more like something straight out of the guidebook to Soviet-era central planning. And we all know how that ended up.

As proposed, the 48% third rate of tax appears discriminatory and unfair in its impact on ‘single’ earners as opposed to dual income households whose gross income amounted to €199,999 per annum to whom it would not apply. It would also shove marginal tax rates up towards 60% according to some economists. How this fits with Joan Burton’s “I am not a supporter of high marginal rates. I never have been. The high marginal rates of yesteryear are a nightmare scenario”, is another of life’s little mysteries.

Making these points might seem like cribbing about details to you, Vic. Except for the fact that the details of what the opposition parties are proposing for the Budget, and the credibility and economic coherence of those proposals, is hugely important in a political context in which the Government may fall when it puts its Budget before the Dail. It’s of particular interest to long standing Labour Party members and supporters like myself, who would wish to see Labour having a strong and credible input into the direction of economic policy in any alternative administration rather than having their proposals consigned to the paper recycling bin, because that’s the only use worth making of them.

@ Veronica

“As proposed, the 48% third rate of tax appears discriminatory and unfair in its impact on ‘single’ earners as opposed to dual income households whose gross income amounted to €199,999 per annum to whom it would not apply.”

I think this just follows the existing tax code. No?

Though you could be right. It doesn’t seem clear to me.

Unless it is intended that a dual income household were the first income is €190,000 and the second is €10,000 is not subject to the 48% rate.

From Revenue:

“€45,400 @ 20% (with an increase of €27,400 max), Balance @ 41%”

If the 41 in that formula turns into 48 then it is consistent with the current tax code.

If not then behaviour will change. A single income household on €195,000 will arrange for the one without income to get a part time “job” in the local Spar at €4,999 to avoid the 48% rate.

I’m sure that is not the intention. Clarification would be good.

From Revenue:

“Trade Union Subscriptions

An annual flat rate allowance of €350 at the standard rate of tax 20% (tax credit €70) is available for Trade Union subscriptions paid in 2008 and 2009.”

It seems astounding that the Labour Party (of all parties) would want to take €70 in cash from Trades Union members.

Who came up with that gem?

Does anyone else find it of interest that comments on Labour’s budget proposals are running at five times those on FG’s proposals? It is possible that there is an interest in exploring the potential for a coherent alternative to the Government’s fiscal policies. While FG’s and Labour’s proposals diverge a credible alternative is not being offered to Irish voters and, as the likely junior partner in any alternative governing offering, there is a focus on those features of Labour’s proposals that differentiate them from those of FG.

It is for FG and Labour to decide if they wish to craft a credible alternative, but, imo, Irish voters deserve and require this.

It seems astounding that the Labour Party (of all parties) would want to take €70 in cash from Trades Union members.

Optics, Greg, its all about the optics.

Not cutting that tax relief would simply serve to make a rod for Labour’s own back.

A rod that would be enthusiastically siezed upon by the right, though of course their real agenda would be to protect the more lucrative property-based reliefs.

@ Vic Duggan,

Thank you for contributing and placing your cards on the table.

However I wish to push you more on the residential investment relief.

The country is flooded with property, rents have had to be reduced and there is now a movement of net emigration from the country.

This has put pressure on landlords. In addition interest rates are low, and in the next few months they will be going in one direction only, upwards.

If you cut interest relief against profit obtained then one of two things will happen.

1) Either rents will have to rise.
2) Landlords will have to go bust.

In addition it does not send out a good signal to future investors in this country.

The CIF has estimated there is a large amount of money still being held back from the Govt in the form of unsold properties, I am open to correction but I believe it is around the 1B mark.

This policy does not make economical sense. In addition Greg has mentioned the possibility of Court action with regard to Retrospection for landlords.

Repeating your doctrine will not answer the questions that I and others have raised. LP doctrine in this case is illogical, we know what your doctrine is, you are being challenged to show how it squares with reality.

In addition landlords are business people, not homeowners. If you reduce cost offset against profit for landlords will the LP continue implementation of this doctrine against other business’s? All business’s have costs which impact on their profit.

You need to explain logically in a clear manner how will points 1 and 2 not occur on implementation of LP policy.

Unless of course it is the LP policy to destroy landlords, and after having destroyed this business, which business will you target next?

@ School Marm

“Not cutting that tax relief would simply serve to make a rod for Labour’s own back.”

Not sure that’s the case. I haven’t heard Fianna Fail, the Green Party, Fine Gale or Sinn Fein suggest removing tax relief on Trades Union subscriptions.

It seems to me to be a cynical exercise designed to put distance between the Labour Party and the Public Service Unions.

Will membership subscriptions of the Irish Medical Organisation also lose their tax deductible status? If so why was this not mentioned?

Not sure that’s the case. I haven’t heard Fianna Fail, the Green Party, Fine Gale or Sinn Fein suggest removing tax relief on Trades Union subscriptions.

Well that’s exactly the point. Labour are in the unique position of having an institutionalized link to the unions, and also gain indirectly from that tax relief via their union-originated funding.

Hence they must be seen to be willing to take as much away from their beardy mates as they squeeze out of anyone else, lest they be accused of hypocrisy.

Will membership subscriptions of the Irish Medical Organisation also lose their tax deductible status?

Yes of course, why wouldn’t they?

Its only €70 a year for crying out load. A GP would nearly make that back in a single 5 minute consultation

FG also propose removing the tax relief on trade union subs for a saving of 19m Eur. I would go further and ban SSB from joining IBEC just to even things up a little.

I believe the State also pays the salaries of the GRA full time staff. That should go as well.

@ Greg,

That ‘gem’ on TU subscriptions may have even been partly inspired by Brian Lenihan!

A few weeks ago, he and JB were both interivewed on Morning Ireland. Joan Bruton was demanding the abolition of all tax reliefs. A few minutes later BL referred to her remarks and pointed out that such reliefs included such things as tax relief on TU subscriptions and capital investment in plant by start up businesses and such like (hazy about most of the items he listed, but the TU one stuck out like a sore thumb) and that it simply wouldn’t be practical, nor desirable, to abolish the lot.

Anyway, it’s a good populist one and a way of indicating ‘we’re not in the pocket of the TUs even if we endorse their policies’. So, fair enough in terms of the politics of the document.

@ Veronica

So this is where relief for Trades Union subscriptions was introduced.


“Section 11 introduces an annual tax allowance at the standard rate of tax of £100 in respect of subscriptions paid for membership of trade unions, regardless of the level of those subscriptions.”

Minister of Finance Charlie McCreevy? That well known hater of Trades Unions.

The phrase “Fianna Fail Trap” comes to mind.

Still, small potatoes in the face of the deficit. I just found it interesting.


“How many IT staff are employed by the HSE?”

Its about 370, which by any comparison is a tiny amount.

@vic duggan: phasing out interest relief on investment property is like phasing out the ability for a business to offset expenses, bringing it down further at a time of collapsing yields and record drops in property prices meaning that margin pressure on borrowers leaves them with an inability to move their loans is kicking a whole sector while it is down. there are some brilliant ideas in the labour submission but that aspect of it is way off mark.

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