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Galway has fourth highest numbers on fuel allowance

Denise McNamara

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The number of Galway households in receipt of the fuel allowance is now the fourth highest in the country.

According to figures released by Energy Action, a lobby group which is fighting fuel poverty, 21,318 households are receiving the €20 fuel allowance per week across the city and county.

Just Dublin, Cork and Donegal have higher numbers.

Nationally, there were 412,000 households getting the allowance in 2013– up from 400,000 in 2011, which was the last time a county breakdown was provided by the Department of Social Protection.

“The figures are pretty high. They are pretty shocking, it’s higher than people I think expected or would think they would be, especially in Donegal, and Galway is pretty high as well,” remarked Jane Barry of Energy Action.

While significant progress has been made in recent years, the number of people in fuel poverty remains stubbornly high, she said.

“As winter approaches, this time of year is a cause of worry for many individuals and families. The number of households receiving fuel allowances continues to increase.”

The allowance will cost the State an estimated €208m this year. It is paid for 26 weeks from October to April and is worth €520 a year to a household which meets the criteria.

In 2013 the payments were extended by a week due to the inclement weather.

The allowance was cut from 32 to 26 weeks during the recession.

The cost of fuel will be higher this season due to the recent increase in carbon tax.

The allowance is subject to a means test and is paid only to those who live alone or with certain exempted people. The electricity or gas allowance of €35 per month is also paid to 410,000 customers at an estimated cost of €230 million in 2014. This is also subject to a means test.

People who qualify for the fuel allowance may be getting a pension, be in receipt of a one-parent family payment or a deserted wife’s benefit.

Fuel poverty often forces people to choose between heating and eating because they cannot afford the energy bills.

When the cold weather hits, the most vulnerable may die unnecessarily. In England and Wales in 2012 and 2013, official figures estimate that there were 31,100 excess winter deaths, a 29% increase on the previous winter.

In a study in 2012, Dr Anne O’Farrell from the HSE’s Health Intelligence Unit found that between 2005 and 2011, there were 3,233 more deaths among those aged 65 years and older in winter than in summer.

More than half of the deaths were due to respiratory diseases, while almost 40% were due to circulatory conditions.

A conference organised by Energy Action next month will see energy companies, health experts and regulators discuss how to find better energy solutions for those in fuel poverty.

“We need to educate people, help them understand their bills, how their heating systems can work, how they can save energy as well, using energy in the right way so they’re not spending more than 10% of their income on fuel.”

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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