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Increase to social welfare needed, advocacy group says

An increase of €27 a week in core social welfare rates and pensions is required to deal with current inflationary trends, Social Justice Ireland has said.

“This is simply to bring these payments back to where they were 15 years ago, before the bank crash. This is what is required to protect the most vulnerable as the cost of living rises,” said the advocacy group’s director Fr Seán Healy.

Speaking as the group published its latest publication Social Justice Matters: 2022 Guide to a Fairer Ireland, Fr Healy said: “A new social contract ensuring wellbeing for all is needed.”

“The rising cost of living is felt most by those in the bottom 20 per cent of the income distribution. These households spend a larger proportion of their income on food and energy,” he said.

The cost of living crisis is “an income adequacy crisis”, he said. The government’s initiatives to address it, while welcome, are “deeply inadequate and not sufficiently targeted to those in greatest need”,

A new social contract is required “to deliver the standard of living that people expect, and to comprehensively resolve the problems we have in areas such as low pay, housing, healthcare, energy, public transport, climate and childcare, all of which impact on people’s wellbeing and on their capacity to cope with inflation and its related consequences”, he said.

Social Justice Ireland research and policy analyst Michelle Murphy said “a robust social dialogue structure involving all stakeholders” would help the Government ensure resources intended to address rising energy costs were directed at those most in need.

It would also assist Government in “delivering housing, healthcare and other vital services to everyone, including those fleeing war,” she said. It would also “go a long way towards addressing persistently high levels of poverty and social exclusion while meeting our climate targets and protecting those most impacted.”

However, this would not work if it excluded “groups such as farmers, the community and voluntary sector and environmental groups,” she said. In the absence of real social dialogue at national level “the strongest can fight their corner in the open market or in the political realm, while the weakest will be left behind”.

“Inequality, already at unacceptable levels, will continue to grow and the integrated development, that is required to address the challenges in housing, healthcare and meeting our climate targets, will not be achieved,” she said.

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We need to replace our uPVC double-glazing – should we opt for grey?

Our double-glazing needs replacing in our three-bedroom semi-detached home due to its age. 

We’ve had two quotes for uPVC windows, and have been offered the option of grey anthracite.

On both quotes, grey comes out at around 15 per cent more expensive.

However, I’ve noticed in our local area that many people seem to have gone grey in recent years, rather than the typical white.

Going grey: A This is Money reader wants to know about the pros and cons of grey windows

Going grey: A This is Money reader wants to know about the pros and cons of grey windows 

I do wonder if there is any benefit to going grey, other than them not showing up dirt as much?

Would it add extra value to our home when we come to sell? Or is it simply just an aesthetic choice? 

Jane Denton replies: The ‘greyification’ of home interiors, cars and now windows has been hard to miss in the last few years. 

New-build homes with grey windows can be found springing up all over Britain. 

Plus, buyers purchasing homes which need a fair amount of work doing to them are, in ever growing numbers, opting for grey windows. Some people view grey as chic and contemporary. 

Send us your property question 

We’d love to hear from you if you have a property question and want to find out what the experts have to say on the matter. 

Whether you have neighbour woes, are looking to update or move home, or perhaps you can’t decide how to sort out an extension or make a room look bigger, we want to hear from you.

If you are a prospective first-time buyer or already on the housing ladder and have a property quandary, get in touch.

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Please put PROPERTY in the subject line. 

As you suggest, your decision will boil down to personal choice and key factors like price, durability and aesthetics. 

While grey can hide dirt better than white, grey can sometimes look somewhat dull. 

Perhaps it’s also worth considering is grey is just a passing fad and will look dated in a decade or so – though that won’t bother you if you have moved house by that point.

Grey windows still aren’t the norm, meaning they are generally more expensive than white ones. 

The same goes, for example, for black or sage green windows. 

The exact costs involved will vary depending on the supplier used, the material you go for, the size of window required and whether the windows are double or triple glazed. 

Depending what you plump for, you could expect to pay around 10 to 20 per cent more for grey windows than conventional white uPVC ones. 

Timber and aluminum options can be pricier. 

In most circumstances, you wouldn’t need planning permission to change the windows in the manner you suggest. 

Permitted development rights are likely to apply. However, for a listed building, planning permission would be required.

In terms of what it means for property price and whether they are worth the investment in general, I turned to a property expert.  

Alex Harvey, managing director of Alex Harvey Estate Agents, said: I have seen various trends in windows come and go, however the ones that have always stood out from the crowd are the coloured and textured varieties. 

They seem to add an additional dimension to the look and feel of a property. uPVC windows of any colour can be a good low-maintenance choice. 

Grey windows can also be very practical. They do not show the dirt as much and make more of a statement than conventional white windows. 

It is not just the windows themselves you need to consider. 

Estate agency boss Alex Harvey believes grey windows can add value to a property

Estate agency boss Alex Harvey believes grey windows can add value to a property

It’s essential to have the right furniture and handles on them to compliment the age and style of the property. 

An example of this is where people have chosen black wrought iron monkey tail handles, in place of the usual chrome or even white plastic in an older style property.

In newer style homes, anthracite works really well to frame the windows and tie them into the structure of the home, while using chrome handles to help the rest of the framing stand out.

Windows are not just a way to bring natural light into a home these days, they are an opportunity to frame the view from inside the property by having a textured and coloured surround. 

However, there are mistakes that can occur, the main one can being that there can be too much beading in the window itself, which can take away from the view.

We tell clients considering coming to market about the importance of having their windows free of blown panes or any broken elements. 

Buyers notice these things when looking out of windows to understand the views and the surroundings of the property. 

In terms of whether grey windows add value to a property, it all depends on the quality of the windows and doors and the warranty that’s offered. 

We have had clients who have invested more for windows and doors that have had longer warranties for both their peace of mind and as a selling feature for future owners. 

Without doubt, newly installed windows and doors will improve an Energy Performance Certificate rating and will therefore appeal to a wider range of buyers.

It is not easy to assign an uplift value, over what the windows would cost to install. 

However, I can certainly say that for properties that urgently require new windows and doors to be replaced, buyers often have an understanding of the investment required and can be put off from buying a property that requires this level of improvement.

My gut feel would be a circa 10 per cent uplift if the windows and doors have a good balance of the above, based on the initial investment of the installation.

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Five climb the property ladder! Famous Five-style 17th century manor house with secret room, spyhole and fascinating history goes up for sale for £3.2m

A Famous Five-style manor house with a secret 17th Century ‘panic room’ and tiny spy-hole built into the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million.

The historic seven-bedroom house started life as a coaching inn just after the English Civil War, but has also been visited by royalty and appeared in a children’s novel.

Among its quirkier features is a secret hiding space dating from more than 300 years ago, which can be accessed via a hidden panel under the stairs, leading to a tiny room beneath. 

Owners could monitor who came to their front door through a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase.

The property at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

A Famous Five-style manor house at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, with a secret 17th Century 'panic room' and spyhole in the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million

A Famous Five-style manor house at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, with a secret 17th Century ‘panic room’ and spyhole in the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million

One of two dining rooms in the property, which was visited in the early 1900s by the future King Edward VII and his wife, Queen Alexandra

One of two dining rooms in the property, which was visited in the early 1900s by the future King Edward VII and his wife, Queen Alexandra

During the early 1900s it was visited by the future King Edward VII with his wife, Queen Alexandra, when they were the Prince and Princess of Wales

The then owner was a lady-in-waiting to the royal family.

It also featured in The White Witch, a 1958 novel by acclaimed children’s writer Elizabeth Goudge. 

In it she describes her character looking out of the house’s south and east windows saying ‘she could see far over the fields to the sunrise’.

The new owners will still have stunning views, which take in local countryside, as well as the village cricket pitch.

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows.

The property has an entrance hall, kitchen, two dining rooms, family room, lounge, utility and laundry room and boot room on the ground floor with a cellar below.

Upstairs is an open-plan study area, seven bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Outside, the property has around 3.2 acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and a triple garage with courtyard parking area and a gravel drive.

The owner said: ‘The house itself is steeped in history as it originally dates back to 1688, just a few decades after the Civil War, and interestingly it has a 17th century panic room hidden behind a section of the original wood panelling.

‘There are stories of visits from royalty – it was owned by a lady-in-waiting in the early years of the 20th century – and it featured heavily in a historical novel called The White Witch, written by Elizabeth Goudge who, many years ago, lived on the other side of the common.

A secret 'panic' room dating back more than 300 years has a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase of the historic property

A secret ‘panic’ room dating back more than 300 years has a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase of the historic property

The property has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The property has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

‘However, for us it was simply a lovely family home, very spacious and bright, and hugely characterful. 

‘My parents made a number of improvements to it over the years, but there’s definitely lots of scope for the new owners to come in and put their own stamp on it.’

Robert Cable, from Fine & Country, who is handling the sale, said the property belonged to a family of five who had bought it 50 years ago.

He said: ‘They have loved living here and raising their family in this house, it is filled with happy memories, but it’s time for them to move on and pass it to new custodians who will appreciate it as much as they have.

‘It would be perfect for a family that wanted their children to grow up in idyllic rural surroundings.

‘Outside there is so much beautiful space to enjoy, or even keep a pony; inside there is so much space and so many nooks and crannies for children to hide, along with the secret room – it’s like something from the Famous Five novels.’

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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