CITY pensioners have been receiving letters from Eircom in recent days advising them of cuts to their phone allowance of up to €170 a year.
While the reduction was announced by Minister Michael Noonan in the budget in December, senior citizens would only see the evidence for themselves in this month’s bill, said Sinn Fein’s Cllr Maurice Quinlivan.
“Letters have been received in the last few days by many pensioners across the city concerning cuts to their telephone allowance. These letters from Eircom contain annual cuts of between €159.96 to €169.44 over the year to the allowance of many pensioners. Many people will now struggle to pay their phone bill. Telephones are not a luxury but a lifeline, especially for older people. Many older people have children abroad and the landline telephone is essential for them to retain contact. It is not a luxury,” he declared.
The monthly reduction from €22.58 to €9.50 is designed to save the exchequer in excess of €60 million per annum but has been condemned by Cllr Quinlivan as a cause of genuine hardship for vulnerable citizens.
“This is a deep cut of almost 60% and will cause great hardship to many people. These cuts to the allowance, combined with the recent rises in the costs of living such as food, energy and the proposed introduction of a property tax later in the year, are causing real pain and concern to many older people as they fear how they will cope and struggle to pay their new higher bills.
“We are now seeing the effects on the elderly of cuts announced in the budget before Christmas. These cuts are biting hard. Many elderly people will now struggle to pay their phone bills and are in fear of what the future brings,” Cllr Quinlivan said.
The allowance is made available to everybody aged 66 and over and covers the cost of line rental as well as a limited number of calls. Around 400,000 people around the country are expected to see their phone bill rise as a result of the cut.