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Alliance hits out as raft of price hikes take effect

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Union members protest over the cost of living crisis at a recent rally at Stormont

Union members protest over the cost of living crisis at a recent rally at Stormont

Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Nick Mathison.

Nick Mathison.

/

Union members protest over the cost of living crisis at a recent rally at Stormont

One of Stormont’s newest MLAs has said it is disgraceful that the Assembly remains in deep freeze as a raft of energy price hikes take effect.

The price increases, which took effect from Friday, will put further pressure on the cost of living.

They will add as much as £375 onto the cost of annual bills for gas and electricity. 

Alliance MLA Nick Mathison, one of the new intake of MLAs after May's election, said it is “disgraceful” that Stormont is unable to take meaningful action during the cost of living crisis.

“Today’s price rises have added yet another financial burden to households, who have been left crippled financially,” said Mr Mathison.

“We have been through the pandemic and are now in the midst of the biggest fall in living standards since comparable records began. These difficulties could yet see a further reduction, thanks to the invasion of Ukraine exacerbating energy and food costs.

The wholesale cost of energy has soared over the past year because of global energy market volatility, which is being passed on to customers. 

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Hikes taking effect from Friday include

  • SSE Airtricity is increasing gas prices by 42.7% in Greater Belfast, adding £372 on to the typical household's annual bill, affecting about 187,000 homes
  • Firmus energy is putting gas prices up in Greater Belfast by 24.5%, adding about £300 to the typical household bill. It will affect 49,000 domestic and small business customers
  • Power NI is increasing domestic prices by 27.5%, adding £204 to the typical annual household bill, affecting more than 450,000 households
  • And Click Energy is putting prices up 11%, adding about £100 to the typical annual household bill, affecting about 26,000 customers

The Consumer Council said the increases, together with rising petrol and food prices, will add over £1,000 in total to the average home’s yearly bill.

Mr Mathison said that households across the region are at “breaking point” and that the Executive remains in a “deep freeze” because of the unwillingness of the DUP to elect a Speaker.

“This means unfortunately that situation will likely only get worse,” he said.

“It is especially galling the rest of the UK is directly benefitting from money to target this crisis but Northern Ireland is missing out due to political paralysis.

“We need the Assembly back and this crisis tackled head on or else the most vulnerable households will be hit even harder and people right across our society will continue struggling to make ends meet.”

DUP MP Gavin Robinson recently appealed to the Government for “significant action” on help with energy bills, particularly around VAT.

"The secondary issue that we have been highlighting for weeks, and that Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is writing to the chancellor today upon, is the steps that they intend to take around VAT,” he said.

"Because the reduction of VAT on energy bills and on fuel costs will be hugely significant, much more significant than the three or four or five pennies taken off a litre of petrol, for example.

"As it stands under the Northern Ireland Protocol, those moves cannot apply to Northern Ireland. We want to see not only significant action from the Government on energy bills and the cost-of-living crisis, but it needs to be applicable right across this United Kingdom.

"I don't think we can stand for a situation where such seismic decisions could be taken, but don't apply to consumers and hard-pressed families here in Northern Ireland."

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill also said the Government was not doing enough to support people through the cost-of-living crisis.

"There are things that are within the gift of the British government that we do not have the powers to do and they should be taxing the big companies, they should be making sure that there's a windfall tax that actually allows us to put that money directly to the public to help them through the cost-of-living crisis," she said.

"What the British government have done to date is not good enough. It does not cut the mustard, it does not support people enough.

"So, what we need to see is an executive formed and the British government need to tax the big companies and put the money into people's pockets."


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