There was a common refrain of dismay voiced this week with the news that private house grants issued by Westmeath County Council are to be cut by over a half.
This was revealed towards the end of the Housing SPC meeting in the County Buildings on Monday (March 4 ) by the council’s head of finance, Jimmy Dalton.
Westmeath had just under €1m (€988,155 ) to allocate for home improvement in 2012, but this is to be cut back to €435,722 for 2013 as just another slice of imposed austerity.
The grants, which are 80 per cent funded by central Government, are used primarily to assist the elderly and the disabled make home improvements in order to make life a little easier, and 160 of them were issued in 2012 at an average of €6,200.
Extension grants, though not as sizeable, have been reduced by a similar percentage from €96,239 to €46,571.
It is believed the severity of the cut may be down to the fact that the council did not draw down its entire allocation for 2012.
In a letter from the Minister for Housing, Jan O’Sullivan to Cllr Mick Dollard last week she pointed out that of the €790,524 allocated from her office to Westmeath (80 per cent of the €988,155 ), just over €38,000 remained uncollected.
“No additional funding for private housing grants was sought by Westmeath County Council from the Department during 2012,” the letter stated.
Longford-Westmeath Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy expressed his shock at the announcement.
“I have sought and received a special debate with Labour Minister Jan O’Sullivan about the cuts. These are extremely callous cuts and the Minister is ignorant to the real need of the elderly and disabled residents of Westmeath. The schemes have proven to be extremely worthwhile projects, keeping people with disabilities and elderly citizens out of long-term care and saving the State millions,” said Deputy Troy.
“Many people in Westmeath with disabilities and in receipt of pensions are in real need of funding and depend on the grant. Now their homes will fall below the required standards to receive the private homes grants, which for many will be devastating,” said his second co-optee, Cllr Avril Whitney.