New fund to help assist community and voluntary groups with energy costs

As energy bills soar for cash strapped community and voluntary groups struggling to meet rising costs, a new fund to help offset heating bills was announced on Friday.

Funding of €314,415 has been made available for community centres, parish halls and voluntary groups across County Meath to help with running costs as part of a new scheme is now open for applications.

Nationally, €10m has been made available for the community support fund to provide small grants to support parish halls, community centres, local development associations, social clubs, ICA groups, senior citizen groups, men’s sheds, women’s sheds with running costs such as energy or insurance bills.

Groups can also use the funding to carry out small upgrade works and to purchase equipment to support their activities such as laptops and printers, lawnmowers, training equipment, etc.

Lisa Byrne, chairperson of Ballivor Community Council which runs the community centre in the village, said they have seen a substantial increase in the annual cost of filling their gas tank and electricity costs are also up 25 per cent.

She said they didn't want to increase their rent for hiring rooms to groups but had to and will have to review it again at Christmas. One of their main sources of income is their bingo but she they are not making the same money from it as they did pre-Covid and players are looking for the prize money to be put up but at the moment they can't afford to.

Lisa said they would welcome any funding that can help with running costs and that applying for the grant scheme was on the agenda for their meeting this week.

"We would like to be self-sufficient. We would love to put up solar panels and if a grant comes along that would facilitate that, it would get rid of a lot of the costs. We couldn't afford to do it ourselves."