Irish Rural Link has welcomed the additional funding announced as part of Budget 2021, but has raised concerns over the impact of the carbon tax increase on rural and low-income households.

The carbon tax will increase from midnight tonight (Tuesday, October 13) by €7.50/t as part of Budget 2021.

Also Read: Budget 2021: Carbon tax to result in increased cost of diesel

The network, which aims to represent the interests of rural communities, welcomes the additional €10 million in current year expenditure to the Covid-19 Stability Fund, which will help community and voluntary organisations, many of which saw an “increase in demand for their services during lockdown restrictions but a decrease in their incomes due to a lack of fundraising, room rental, etc”.

However, the network has called for a number of years of multi-annual funding for these organisations and awaits further details on this.

Irish Rural Link said:

“While the increase in the Living Alone Allowance by €5 a week and the Fuel Allowance by €3.50 to €28 a week is welcome, we are concerned that other social welfare recipients who will not receive an increase in their weekly payment and are not eligible for the Fuel Allowance will be negatively impacted by the increase in carbon tax.

Also, those on low incomes in rural areas dependent on their car to get to work will be negatively impacted by this increase.

Under the budget, €29 million in funding has been allocated to heritage sites, parks and wildlife and peatlands restoration.

“We await the breakdown of this funding but call on government to engage with communities and use a community-led approach to peatland restoration,” the network continued.

“The measures set out to support the tourism and hospitality sector are welcome, but continued support will be needed going forward for these businesses, if they are unable to reopen in the near future.”

It also welcomed the 4,000 apprenticeship places and funding for reskilling and upskilling, as well as the digital upskilling.

In its pre-budget submission, Irish Rural Link called for supports for remote working, as it sees it as a “key part to the development of sustainable rural communities”.

“During Covid-19 restrictions, we have seen the benefits of working remotely – mainly from home – have had on communities and we welcome that tax relief for working from home has been extended to include broadband use.

“Also, the additional €5 million in the Town and Village Renewal Scheme is also welcome for the development of digital hubs and remote workspaces.”