Irish Rural Link: Budget 2021 must be ‘rural proofed’

The Irish Rural Link is calling for the recovery from Covid-19 to be “regionally balanced and inclusive of everyone” ahead of attending an annual budget meeting.

The national network which aims to represent the interests of rural communities – Irish Rural Link – will be having a virtual meeting today (Wednesday, September 16) with the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

Together with 16 other organisations that form the community and voluntary pillar, Irish Rural Life will be discussing how Budget 2021 should be shaped to minimise the impact of the many challenges facing rural communities and the more vulnerable sections of society, namely: Covid-19; Brexit; decarbonisation; and the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). 

As per its pre-budget submission, the organisation is calling for a recovery from Covid-19 that is “regionally balanced and inclusive of everyone”.

Also on the agenda is discussing the move to decarbonise the country – and the Irish Rural Link is continuing to call for a ‘just transition’ approach to this to “ensure that no more households are pushed into fuel and energy poverty and those who are already experiencing or at risk of fuel poverty are lifted out of it”.

The organisation explained:

“While some of the measures currently in place such as increasing fuel allowance and warmer homes grants may compensate the increase in fuel, the fact remains that these households still need to heat their homes with fossil fuels and/or home heating oil.

“We are therefore calling on the establishment of a fund based on grants and low or no interest loans designed to assist all households who wish to convert their homes to sustainable heating systems.”

Remote Working Taskforce

The Irish Rural Link will be calling for the establishment of a remote working taskforce, whose purpose will be to investigate the type of supports needed, including taxation-based, so that remote working can be encouraged.

“We have seen the benefits remote working has on people’s work-life balance with zero commuting time and the benefits this in turn has on our environment and climate change.”

The organisation is also calling for the protection of incomes of households in receipt of social welfare payments and on lower income in rural areas “in light of increasing costs to essential goods and services” to be on the agenda for Budget 2021.

Such households living in rural areas continue to face higher income inadequacies than their urban counterparts. Real investment in public services in rural areas is needed to help reduce the cost of living.

“Budget 2021 must not only be poverty proofed, but also rural proofed – so the mistakes of the recovery from the financial crises are not repeated where there was greater regional divide and increased social exclusion for the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in society.”