Carrick-on-Suir Town Council has deferred relaxing its ban on the installation of gas meters in its houses due to safety concerns over the servicing of gas boilers that it wishes to get clarified.
The postponement was greeted with disappointment by Cllr Sylvia Cooney-Sheehan at the Town Council’s May meeting but the Town Clerk and Housing Committee members stressed the deferral was necessary in order to consult with the Health & Safety Authority about their concerns.
Cllr Cooney-Sheehan has strongly opposed the inclusion of a clause in the Town Council’s Tenant Handbook prohibiting tenants from getting a gas meter installed to help them with household budgeting.
Following pressure from the Fianna Fail councillor and other councillors, Town Council management agreed that rather than having a blanket ban on gas meters it would look at applications to instal these meters on a case by case basis.
The issue had been referred to the Council’s Housing Committee with a view to bringing proposals back to the Council’s May meeting for consideration but instead the elected Council was informed of the delay.
Town Clerk Michael O’Brien explained that if a tenant hadn’t sufficient credit in their meters when the Council called to do the annual service of their gas boiler then the boiler couldn’t be serviced. There was a request that the Council bring the matter to the Health & Safety Authority’s attention and see what follow up is needed with An Bord Gais.
Mr O’Brien said the Housing Committee decided to hold off on bringing the proposal in relation to relaxing its prohibition on gas meters until after it received a response from the HSA.
Cllr Cooney-Sheehan said she was extremely disappointed. Carrick-on-Suir Town Council was the first local authority in Ireland to include this clause in its Tenant Handbook and the Money Advice & Budgeting Service was “absolutely flabbergasted” that the Council has made this stand.
She accused the Council of stalling on this issue and in the meantime tenants under financial pressure were prevented from getting a gas meter installed in their homes.
Mr O’Brien responded that the Housing Committee unanimously agreed to defer the issue as this was a very serious health and safety issue. There had been several occasions when the Council was unable to service boilers because there were no credit in a gas meter.
He said these gas meters were seen as a panacea for people in financial arrears but he didn’t know if it was made clear to them that they had to pay a standing charge if they didn’t have their gas heating on for the summer months. They find that a lot of their credit is eaten up paying this standing charge.
Housing Committee member Cllr Kieran Bourke said he supported Cllr Cooney-Sheehan’s objections to the Tenant Handbook provision prohibiting the installation of the meters at the last meeting but he supported referring the concerns relating to the servicing of boilers to the HSA as there was “potential for a very serious disaster to happen”.
Independent Cllr Patsy Fitzgerald also voiced his support for the decision to consult the HSA.
Cllr Cooney-Sheehan responded that this matter should have been checked out and dealt with before the clause was put in the Tenant Handbook.
Mr O’Brien replied that Council management were still opposed to the installation of these meters for a variety of reasons and this health and safety issue only arose because due to the force of feeling among councillors on the issue the Council had reconsidered its stance.