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MLAs 'must see Hamilton plan to cut RHI costs'

By Rebecca Black

A credible plan to resolve the 'cash for ash' scandal must be put before Stormont's economy committee "as soon as possible".

Outgoing First Minister Arlene Foster had insisted she worked over the Christmas break to find a way to reduce the costs of the controversial Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) scheme to "zero".

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton sent a business case to Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir earlier this week outlining how he intended to tackle the projected £490m overspend.

Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken indicated the economy committee was ready to scrutinise the proposal as soon as it has been agreed.

Sinn Fein MLAs have withdrawn from Stormont committees, a move Mr Aiken described as "shameful".

"The economy committee agreed to help expedite stemming the haemorrhaging of £85,000 a day from the Northern Ireland budget," he said.

"The committee is ready to provide scrutiny and has sought assurances that before any plan is brought before it, full legal opinion is obtained from the departmental solicitor's office and shared with the committee, and that the draft PwC report on the RHI scheme is also made available to it.

"All the remaining committee members are fully committed to help solve this issue, but again it is noted that the announcements on the RHI scheme have been made via the media rather than by normal government process. Indeed, Arlene Foster said on Tuesday that Simon Hamilton would consult other parties, but as yet he has not done so.

"The committee has strongly expressed the opinion that only a well-considered and legally watertight scheme, that is fully costed, can provide the solution that Northern Ireland taxpayers expect."

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