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SDLP leader demands answers on £400 energy payment


SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has called on the Government to give clarity on a £400 energy bills discount for households in Northern Ireland.

This winter, the Energy Bills Support Scheme is supposed to provide the payments to every household in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

At present, the Treasury is still in discussions on how the payments will be made here without a functioning Stormont Executive.

Mr Eastwood criticised the DUP for refusing to elect an Assembly speaker over concerns about the protocol.

This week Mr Eastwood's party initiated an Assembly recall to move things forward, but as expected the vote failed.

“The DUP’s refusal to return to Stormont to get support out to families struggling as result of the cost of living crisis has condemned people in the North to an incredibly difficult winter,” he said. 

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"We have a recession looming, energy bills are set to rise ever higher and fuel poverty will become the norm for people here in the months ahead.”

Mr Eastwood said that in the “absence of support from Stormont,” the UK Government needed to step up to ensure people receive as much support as possible.

“That’s why I’ve written to the Department for Energy urging them to immediately clarify how people in the North will receive the £400 Energy Bills Support Scheme payment,” he said.

“The reality is this £400 doesn’t go anywhere near far enough to supporting people during this emergency, but with energy bills estimated to hit £500 by January we must ensure that every bit of support gets to those who need it.

"The DUP have already prevented us from using the £400m plus at Stormont to help people, but for them to prevent other support getting to struggling families is unthinkable. We need confirmation now on exactly how this money will be paid to people and when. Families and workers cannot afford to wait. The SDLP is demanding an immediate response.”

Correspondence from the Treasury seen by the Belfast Telegraph stated the Government is “urgently working to identify a route to deliver this as soon as possible”.

Ulster Unionist communities spokesperson Andy Allen has also written to the Treasury for answers.

Responding, Conservative MP Alan Mak, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said: “It is right that the people of Northern Ireland should receive the equivalent of the Energy Bill Support Scheme support as announced on May 26. The UK Government is urgently working to identify a route to deliver this support as soon as possible."

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