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New charge to put Galway families in deep water

Denise McNamara



New water charges to hit low income homes

The St Vincent De Paul (SVP) has warned that water charges will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for many Galway families unless they implement additional measures to help low income households.

Last week the Commission for Energy Regulation said water will cost €176 for houses with one adult and €102 for each extra adult. A couple with two children will have to cough up €278 annually.

The former minister for the environment Phil Hogan insisted the average household would pay €240 a year. Just three months later, the commission’s figures are 20% higher.

Labelling the charge per litre as one of the highest in Europe, the SVP believes the proposals will have serious implications for low-income households as alleviation measures are not properly targeted to those who need them the most.

The Government’s decision to give financial assistance via the household benefits package is an untargeted measure. The charity believes it should be directed to those in receipt of fuel allowance.

“Using the fuel allowance instead of the Household Package would mean that Government could target assistance directly to older people, unemployed, one parent families and people in receipt of disability allowance.  If measures are required for people who are struggling then they should go to people we already know are in difficulty,” says Brendan Hennessy, SVP social justice officer.

This has been backed up by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), which stated that the the household package “would not have as great an impact on low income households as one based on the fuel allowance”

The proposed charge of €4.88 per 1,000 litres – one of the highest in Europe– establishes a culture of high charging.

“This could have serious implications after 2016 – the end of the transitionary period. It is also represents the end of the time limit of Government’s subsidy to Irish Water.”

Irish Water had proposed a standing charge and a fixed national rate for consumed water. One month later, prior to local elections in May, the Government directed there should be no standing charge and allowances to each household and child under 18.

SVP said we need to use the time up to 2016 to learn about water consumption and the impact of water pricing and water poverty.

“Coherent, evidence-based, long-term solutions to addressing water affordability and the secure funding future of Irish Water need to be found.”

According to the commission’s draft water charges plan, people with water meters will have consumption-based charges, but will have their bills capped at the assessed charges for six months after the meter is installed.

A property that only requires one of the services – for example a house with a septic tank for dealing with waste water – will be charged at a rate of €2.44 per 1,000 litres.

A typical power shower uses about 80 litres of water so a shower every day will cost them 38 cent or €139 a year.


Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
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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Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
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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