Chair of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party and Kildare South TD, Martin Heydon, says Fine Gael has ensured that Budget 2017 will help hard pressed working families, with measures designed to protect the economy and improve people’s lives.

“Fine Gael is using Budget 2017 to protect the progress we have made and build a strong economy. The gains we have made as a country are hard won and fragile, especially in the context of Brexit, but we are in a position to use some of the resources from our growing economy to help hard pressed working families.

“One particular highlight of Budget 2017 in this regard is the significant investment in childcare, designed to make it more affordable for working families. Parents of a child between 6 and 36 months in full time formal child care will receive support to the value of €960 per year. There will also be a targeted subsidy scheme for low to middle income parents with children between 6 months and 15 years. This announcement is in addition to the steps already taken to help parents get back to work. Last month we rolled out a second free year of the Early Childhood Care and Education Scheme (ECCE) and introduced two weeks of paternity leave.

“In addition to these specific measures designed to help working families, we are continuing the process started in the last few Budgets of reducing high levels of taxation on modest incomes generally.

“Each of the lower three USC rates are being reduced by 0.5%. Reducing the USC will ease the financial pressure on lower and middle income earners, sharing with them some of the benefits of our return to economic growth. Tax cuts increase the numbers returning to work which is good for the economy. A €400 increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit will bring the total exemption to €950, which is a further step along the road to equalising the tax treatment of self-employed workers with PAYE earners. This will help self-employed people and small business owners to create more jobs. Only a strong economy supporting people at work can pay for the services needed to create a fair society.

“Other measures to help the so-called ‘squeezed middle’ include a reduction in DIRT from by 2% each year for the next 4 years, which will benefit savers, reducing it from 41% to 33% by 2020. The Inheritance Tax threshold that applies to gifts and inheritance from parents to their children will be increased to €310,000 and the threshold for all other categories will increase by 8%.

“A ‘help to buy scheme’ will help first time buyers get on the property ladder and will boost housing supply generally.

“The home carers’ credit will be increased by €100, bringing it up to €1,100.

“We have already provided free GP care for under 6s and in our Programme for Government we have committed to Free GP care for all children under 18.

“Fine Gael in Government is delivering for families. While we cannot do everything in one Budget, we will have more resources to address the various challenges in our society, as the economy and employment continue to grow under the sound management of this Government.

“Budget 2017 is another stepping stone in Fine Gael’s plan to use a strong economy to help make people’s lives better. Thanks to the careful economic management of recent years we now have the resources to target investments in key public services that will make a real difference to people and families.”