Where are this Government's priorities? - McDonald
Speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin's 2007 Pre-Budget Submission in Dublin this afternoon, Sinn Féin Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP questioned the Government's priorities as it debates tax cuts for the better off while low-income households struggle to cope. She pointed out that the cut in the top rate of tax would fund a number of Sinn Féin's proposals, and went on to outline the party's initiative around progressive reform of Maternity Benefit, and the introduction of Paternity Benefit.
"The Government is considering reducing the top rate of tax from 42% to 40%. The cost to the Exchequer of doing this would be about €457 million a year. For roughly the same money you could keep all of those on the average industrial wage within the standard rate tax band of 20%, increase the social welfare pension by €34.80 a week and increase child benefit by €10 a month. I believe that this would be a much better use of this money. That it is not being considered, shows where the priorities of this Government lie.
"We are also proposing progressive reform for parents. The weekly rate of Maternity Benefit is calculated by dividing gross income in the relevant tax year by the number of weeks actually worked in that year. At present 80% of this amount is payable weekly, subject to a minimum payment of €182.60 and a maximum payment of €265.60.
"These levels do not being to address the needs of new mothers when one considers the financial commitments facing most families and in particular mortgage repayments which are growing due to rising inflation. Maternity Benefit should be paid at 100% of earnings subject to and increasing the bottom rate to €216.80 and the top rate to €309.70.
"Sinn Féin has proposed the introduction of four weeks paternity leave. This should be paid at the same rate as Maternity Benefit, as should the payments which ought to be introduced in respect of parental leave."