Infrastructural development, continued Covid-19 supports and tax measures to support the economy are all top of Cork Chamber's wish list for Budget 2021.
The Cork Chamber of Commerce is one of the leading business organisations for the promotion and development of economic and commercial activity in the Cork region.
The Chamber has highlighted the importance of Budget 2021 supporting the region’s hospitality sector and wider economy, emphasising the importance of providing support for Cork Airport.
They have also called for the acceleration of key projects in the region, to enhance infrastructure and business.
“Budget 2021 must be about securing our economic resilience with infrastructural investment, finessing the pandemic supports and tax measures critical to normalising the economy and State finances,” said Paula Cogan, President of Cork Chamber.
“To provide continuity to construction and to move beyond the legacy of the last recession, significant moves must be made to accelerate key projects such as the Cork Metropolitan Area Strategic Plan, the National Broadband Plan and Renewable Electricity Subsidy Scheme, which will set the scene for new ways of mobility, communication and energy that are fit to drive a modern economy.
“To keep our region open for business, there must be commitment to invest in capital projects, and marketing for Cork Airport,” she added.
“Local spend in hospitality and retail can also be enhanced by boosting the tax free voucher system from €500 to €1,000.
“The extension of the EWSS (employment wage subsidy scheme) beyond March 2021 will be absolutely essential to the revival of businesses beyond Q1 and the criteria must be reviewed to ensure that businesses and jobs are not lost unnecessarily between now and then.
“It must be remembered that keeping the economy going will be our best route to recovery,” said Ms Cogan.
“There is a window of opportunity, through a temporary reduction of Capital Gains Tax to 25% to stimulate economic activity.
“The last significant reduction in CGT led to a 36% increase in yield and in the current circumstance, a reduction could bring similar value,” she added.
“A time bound CGT exemption for passive investors is another initiative that could also see many companies through the pandemic with the support of private equity, reducing the level of State capital tied up in supports.
“There are many ways to achieve economic stability despite the major challenges posed by this pandemic and we have a stable tax base and international rating from which to do so.
“Counter cyclical spend on infrastructure, a laser sharp focus on ensuring that existing supports work and a blend of tax-related measures to stimulate economic activity is a recipe that will hold us in good stead.”
Cork Chamber said its submission for Budget 2021 was influenced by the current pandemic and forthcoming EU-UK withdrawal.
It was also guided by the Cork Chamber commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
The submission is aligned to five goals: Decent work and economic growth; climate action; gender equality; sustainable cities and communities; industry, innovation and infrastructure.
In its submission, the Chamber said that gender inequality and unequal workforce participation are clear barriers to a fair society and inhibit economic growth.
“With the added turbulence of working from home, there are added pressures.
“For example, without strong support for early childhood settings, the whole of the economy is operationally challenged.”
Cork Chamber has called for additional funding for accessible, affordable and high-quality childcare services; continued investment in the Early Childhood Care and Education scheme (ECCE); an incremental increase in total investment in childcare to one percent of GDP, as recommended by UNICEF; and for costs and barriers to growing the childcare sector to be addressed.
It also called for Budget 2021 to set aside funding to enable a review of Paternity Benefit to better understand any obstacles for take-up to support parenting equality as well as increased investment in childcare services, early education infrastructure and schools that are reopening to facilitate before and after school childcare in all parts of the country to help working parents and mitigate against the reduction in supply of childcare places that has arisen from Covid-19.
Decent Work & Economic Growth
In 2021, the continuity of decent work, and the groundwork for decent economic growth, will be linked directly to the effectiveness of pandemic supports, according to Cork Chamber.
As a result, the Chamber has called for the temporary wage subsidy scheme and employment wage subsidy scheme to continue for businesses that require one or both.
It also called for the schemes to be withdrawn from businesses that experience a ‘good month’ but allow them to opt back in.
“A specific financial support plan and stakeholder response group must be set up for any county or city region should Covid-19 numbers escalate to the point of necessitating localised lockdown.
“Provision must be made for the extension of the EWSS and rates waiver far beyond the current commitment,” the Chamber added.
Cork Chamber also said that the effectiveness and duration of all measures must be reviewed in relation to Brexit.
The Chamber proposed a temporary time-bound reduced rate of employer PRSI across the board of 5.5 percent.
Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
At a time of growing international protectionism, the Cork Chamber said it is important to make targeted changes to our own national tax system to improve the overall competitiveness of Ireland.
Cork Chamber welcomed the indications of increased levels of infrastructural spend in 2021, saying:
“Road, rail, cycle and pedestrian projects must be brought forward without delay to provide much-needed improvements and to boost counter cyclical spend in 2021 which will be critical to the construction sector.
“Quite practically, there is also an opportunity to accelerate work while traffic volumes are lower and disruption to business and commuters can be minimised.
“The Cork Metropolitan Area Transport Strategy must be supported robustly and with delivery focussed urgency via a Cork focused team,” the Chamber added.
“Multiple minor interventions such as stretches of cycleway have a huge cumulative impact and must be prioritised in parallel with big ticket items.”
Cork Chamber stated that the government must create a visible legacy.
“The Dunkettle Interchange is critical carrying over 100,000 vehicle movements per day in normal times,” it said.
“The project will also for the first time, enable cyclists and pedestrians to safely traverse the junction.
“It is essential that the complementary greenways through Glanmire and Carrigtwohill are completed urgently and in parallel to facilitate sustainable local movement and mid-distance cycle commuting,” they added.
“Furthermore, enhanced bus access to Little Island creates the opportunity to offer a credible bus service, finally adding some modal diversity for businesses and communities in the area.”
Cork Chamber also stated that, subject to a supportive judicial review, a swift positive financial decision for the M28 is “critical”.
“The M20 must continue to move towards construction as a major piece of inter city and regional connectivity,” the Chamber added, also highlighting the need for an N25 corridor enhancement, continued work on the N22 and support for the long awaited Cork Event Centre.
“The Lower Lee Flood Relief Scheme must be overtly supported, and in particular the delivery of the cornerstone project at Morisson’s Island, subject to a supportive judicial review,” the Chamber said.
Cork Chamber commended Cork City Council for its pedestrianisation, cycle, amenity and outdoor dining measures, and said that, in the interest of amenity, noise, pollution, road safety, and encouraging more walking and cycling, the government should introduce 30kph speed limits in urban areas.
In terms of aviation and tourism, the Chamber said that to ensure that Cork Airport continues to deliver as a strategic infrastructural asset and regional economic driver, significant marketing supports must be put in place for route continuity and development.
The Chamber added that capital projects must be supported by the government as they simply cannot be sustained without revenue.
Sustainable Cities & Communities
In its submission, Cork Chamber warned that apartment viability and density must be supported or one of the signature intentions of Ireland 2040 will be proven hollow.
“It is essential not only in terms of provision of housing in line with best practice planning sustainability and mobility principles but also to boost City Centre commerce by reinvigorating a real living city,” the Chamber said.
“Implementation of the shared ownership model proposed in the programme for government as a priority measure,” they said.
Cork Chamber stated that the cost of land remains a “distorting factor” for both price at point of sale and the ability to bring sites to market.
“We recommend that the Government pursue a contemporary approach to the Kenny report findings, seeking to benchmark against the cost of agricultural land plus an appropriate percentage uplift,” the Chamber said.
Cork Chamber also used its budget submission to highlight the issue of climate change, which it said is the single greatest economic and social threat.
“It is essential that comprehensive steps are taken to pivot to a circular economy,” the Chamber said.
“In the areas of energy consumption and biodiversity, huge strides must be made.”
The Chamber also highlighted the need for progress on the National Broadband Plan, and to provide universal access to high-quality broadband, which it claimed is still not available in parts of Cork City.
They also called for “robust support” for e-mobility incentives and active mobility, as well as support for swift and full implementation of the Waste Action Plan for a circular economy.
Watch: Conor Healy of Cork Chamber on Budget 2021: