'It's scaring people': Call for action from Cork charity as fuel prices rise further

Prices at some Cork pumps are exceeding €1.95 a litre
'It's scaring people': Call for action from Cork charity as fuel prices rise further

Petrol and diesel prices at Circle K garage at Lissarda, Co Cork. ‘Governments in other parts of Europe have capped the prices of petrol and diesel at €1.30 to help their citizens, but here we have the highest excise duties in Europe,’ says Paul Lynch of the Cork Taxi Council. Picture: Eddie O’Hare

THE head of a Cork charity has said a crisis is developing for families as the cost of living and fuel prices soar.

Caitriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners told The Echo that the charity has experienced a significant spike in demand for its services since the turn of the year.

“It’s rising, rising, rising,” she said of the cost of living. “It’s scaring people. The cost of fuel, the cost of heating, the cost of everything. How do they [the Government] expect people to be able to support themselves?”

There have been substantial increases in oil and gas costs in recent months due to inflation. These costs have increased again since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with prices at some Cork pumps going over €1.95 a litre.

Paul Lynch of the Cork Taxi Council said taxi driver income is falling rapidly and has called on the Government to help reduce fuel costs.

“A few months ago, I was able to fill my car for €55. Now it is €90 and climbing,” he said.

“It is getting worse. I know representative bodies have been trying to contact the Government and the Minister for Transport, but we are getting nowhere. The Tánaiste said it could take weeks, but some people don’t have weeks.”

Mr Lynch wants the Government to reduce the excise duty on fuel for two months which will give taxi drivers, hauliers, and the public some much-needed relief.

EMERGENCY SURCHARGE

The Cork Taxi Council member said there are two options worth considering to ease the burden for taxi drivers. One was a €1 emergency surcharge on fares to tackle rising fuel costs, the second being a cut in excise duty. Paul said an excise duty cut would help everybody.

“The surcharge of €1 that has been mooted by one or two representative bodies is a decent proposal,” he said. “The fear is you could have a few people out there who could raise it by more than €1.

“Our Government is very slow to react. Governments in other parts of Europe have capped the prices of petrol and diesel at €1.30 to help their citizens, but here we have the highest excise duties in Europe. Something will have to be done to make things better for all. If they cut the excise and the VAT on petrol and diesel for the next two months, this would give everybody a break. We need a bit of help and common sense to be applied.”

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on housing, Eoin Ó Broin T.D. speaking with Caitriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners at the visitor centre at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne, Gurranabraher, Cork a collection point for donations to Ukraine. . Included are C.lr. Kenneth Collins, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire T.D. and Cllr. Thomas Gould.T.D. Picture Dan Linehan
Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on housing, Eoin Ó Broin T.D. speaking with Caitriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners at the visitor centre at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne, Gurranabraher, Cork a collection point for donations to Ukraine. . Included are C.lr. Kenneth Collins, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire T.D. and Cllr. Thomas Gould.T.D. Picture Dan Linehan

Mr Lynch said it is very hard for taxi drivers to make a decent wage, and their workload has not fully returned since the pandemic.

“It is hard for us to make a living,” he said. “Our income is down and to make up for that we are out doing extra hours. The work hasn’t really returned either since the pandemic. Weekend work is back, but the work early in the week is not back. That won’t come back until the tourist season starts, which will start from St Patrick’s weekend on.”

The Cork driver said that many cars in Cork have been off the road since the beginning of the pandemic.

“There are an estimated 500 cars off the road in Cork alone,” he said. “This includes people who retired and younger drivers changing career. There are few people seeking work as a taxi driver now.”

Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has said the party will be “pressing the Government” this week to put in place additional supports to help mitigate against increases in the cost of living.

The Dublin Mid-West TD made the comment whilst speaking to The Echo during a visit to Cork to engage with various groups and individuals to discuss the housing market and housing system in Cork.

Rising costs of day-to-day expenses have meant seen a growing number of people struggling to make ends meet, with fears being compounded by the war in Ukraine.

Last month the Government unveiled a package of measures aimed at providing short-term assistance, particularly for households on a fixed or low income

However, Mr Ó Broin said more needs to be done.

THREE 'BIG AREAS'

“The three big areas are the cost of housing, so we absolutely need the Government to ban rent increases and put a months’ rent back into renters’ pockets through a refundable tax credit,” he said.

“The second thing is childcare is far, far too expensive and we’ve outlined how over a number of years you could cut the cost of childcare by two-thirds while improving the wages of childcare workers, and the standards.

“The third is fuel — whether it’s the fuel in your car or the fuel in your home. Government is going to seriously need to look at all of the different levels of taxation currently applying to people’s energy bills to see how we can reduce those costs.

“The war in Ukraine is going to push up fuel prices even more.

“We’re seeing petrol at the pumps almost at €2 [per litre] and therefore we’re going to be pressing the Government this week on what extra supports are they going to put in place to bring down those costs and put money back in working people’s pockets.”

An advocate for the elderly in Cork has welcomed the €200 electricity credit, but said a once-off payment “is not sufficient” for many people facing energy poverty.

It comes as President Michael D Higgins signed the Electricity Costs (Domestic Electricity Accounts) Emergency Measures Bill 2022 into law, meaning each household will receive the credit.

The reduction will be listed as €176.22, but the discount will be €200, including VAT.

However, Age Action believes that elderly people facing energy poverty need more support to combat the rising cost of living.

FUEL ALLOWANCE

Speaking to The Echo, head of advocacy and communications at Age Action, Celine Clarke, said: “Any measure to support people to cope with the rising cost of energy is welcome, however, the one-off payment is not sufficient for the many people who are facing energy poverty, and will provide little added help to those who simply cannot afford to keep the heat turned on.

Celine Clarke of Age Action Ireland: ‘Age Action estimates that up to 28% of households may be in fuel poverty’.	Picture: Moya Nolan
Celine Clarke of Age Action Ireland: ‘Age Action estimates that up to 28% of households may be in fuel poverty’. Picture: Moya Nolan

“Age Action estimates that up to 28% of households may be in fuel poverty, including 165,000 of households with older persons.”

Pressure is also growing on the Government to take steps that would offset some of the increases in oil and gas costs seen since the invasion of Ukraine began.

“Thousands of older persons who are not eligible for the fuel allowance struggle to afford the cost of electricity, gas, and other fuels,” said Ms Clarke.

“The fuel allowance eligibility rules need to be substantially revised, and new payments are needed to help older people with energy costs.”

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