The package of measures announced by Finance Minister Michael Noonan in the Dáil on Tuesday afternoon could accurate-ly be described as a giveaway Budget.

Much of what was announced had been flagged in advance and was confirmed by the Minister in a speech that outlined a number of tax reliefs, changes in Social Welfare and increased funding in housing, education and towards relief on water charges.

The headline-grabbing provisions include an increase in Child Benefit of €5 per child from January, 25% Christmas bonus for Social Welfare recipients, a Living Alone Allowance increase of €9 from January and a Back to Work family dividend to be introduced.

There was some relief for taxpayers in the Budget, which proposes to reduce the 41% tax rate to 40% with the single-person income tax standard rate to rise by €1,000, the entry point for USC has gone up to €12,000, reductions in both the 2% and 4% USC bands, plus provision of tax mea-sures to support farmers.

Recruitment to the Civil Service is to resume in 2015, and it is planned to employ up to 1,700 additional teachers in mainstream, resource and SNAs. €1.6bn is to be provided in 2015 for 300,000 work and training places, plus a €2.2bn capital investment on social housing over the next three years and an additional €10m for homeless housing.

On the contentious water charges, the water subsidy is to be expanded to include fuel allowance recipients, while income tax relief up to a maximum of €500 will apply on water charges.

Other provisions include Dirt Tax refund on savings of first time buyers and the abolition of the 0.15% pension levy by the end of 2015, while Ireland’s 12.5% corporation tax is to be retained. The 9% VAT on hospitality is also to be retained.

Good news for motorists and drinkers: there are no rises planned on petrol, diesel, Vehicle Regis-tration Tax or alcohol. Not such good news for smokers as a packet of 20 cigarettes went up by 40c from midnight.

This Budget is the first sign of relief after years of austerity and is likely to be broadly welcomed as confirmation that the country is at last turning the corner on the road to recovery.