HOTELS and guesthouses across Kildare have criticised the Government’s decision not to reverse the tourism VAT hike introduced last year.
Dara Cruise, Chair of the Irish Hotel Federation’s (IHF) Midlands branch, said it seriously undermined Irish tourism’s international competitiveness and the ability of enterprises like hotels to re-invest in their business and the local economy.
“Our industry has been one of the great success stories of the economy in recent years, supporting 270,000 jobs and promoting balanced regional growth across the country,” he said, highlighting concerns like Brexit and our high-cost economy. “Here in Kildare it supports 12,000 jobs and contributes some €125 million to the local economy annually. It is therefore disappointing that the Government has failed to recognise the exceptional challenges now confronting tourism businesses. A rate of 9% VAT is the appropriate level for Ireland.”
County Kildare Chamber, meanwhile, has welcomed the overall approach of the Government to opt for prudence and prepare for the very real possibility of a no-deal Brexit, recommending that any new support be easily accessed and understood. It also reacted positively to the €1 billion allocated to the Department of Business, reforms to the KEEP scheme, and the increased Earned Income Tax Credit. The Chamber noted that an interim budget may be necessary if the Brexit threat recedes.
However, Chamber chief executive Allan Shine described the commercial property purchases stamp duty increase from 6% to 7.5% as “alarming”, branding it as harmful in selling Ireland as a predictable place to do business.
Measures aimed at alleviating pressure on Bord na Móna, its workers and their families has also been welcomed by TD Martin Heydon, including a €6m Just Transition Fund to support retraining and reskilling workers and assist local communities and businesses adjust to the low carbon transition.
Elsewhere, bookies across Kildare will benefit from up to €50,000 relief per year from betting duty and betting intermediary duty, while excise duty on a pack of 20 cigarettes increased by 50c with a pro-rata increase on other tobacco products.
Gardaí have funding for up to 700 new recruits and extra civilian staff, with more spending earmarked for the Irish Prison Service and the Courts Service among others. Over €11bn will be provided to the Department of Education next year – more than 150 new mainstream teaching posts are to be created and investment of €1.9bn is earmarked for special education.
But according to the INTO, primary pupils and principals in Kildare have been short-changed, noting that Irish primary school classes are still the largest in the Eurozone and calling for a restoration of assistant principal posts and at least one leadership and management day per week for teaching principals.
First-time buyers across the county will welcome the extension of the Help-to-Buy scheme for another two years while 11,000 new social homes are to be delivered next year, though Social Democrats co-leader and Kildare TD Catherine Murphy has said that the housing measures in the budget ignore the significantly escalating crisis within the private rental sector with thousands of people in precarious circumstances with little to no real protections.
The agricultural community has also aired criticisms in recent days. Kildare farmer Brian Rushe, currently the Irish Farmers’ Association chair for Kildare/West Wicklow and a candidate for the role of IFA deputy president, described the measures as “totally inadequate” and said he was “very disappointed” with the stamp duty increase which is “a step backwards”.
He also noted that many farm sectors are under huge pressure at the moment and said that the Government needs to show a bit more ambition. “When farmers do well, rural economies do well, towns in rural Ireland do well as well,” he said. “The Government needs to wake up to that fact.”