| 11.7°C Belfast

Candidates’ debate hears call for new Department for Energy

Event organised by small business group told Stormont must act over rising power prices

Close

All agreed it was important for the Executive to be up and running following the May 5 election, but differed over how much Stormont can do to help deal with the issue of rising costs

All agreed it was important for the Executive to be up and running following the May 5 election, but differed over how much Stormont can do to help deal with the issue of rising costs

All agreed it was important for the Executive to be up and running following the May 5 election, but differed over how much Stormont can do to help deal with the issue of rising costs

Stormont could establish a Department for Energy, introduce more rates holidays, or set up a task force to mitigate the soaring costs of power for small businesses, an election event has heard.

Journalist and broadcaster Karen Patterson hosted the hour-long Federation of Small Businesses debate involving candidates Gordon Lyons (DUP), Caoimhe Archibald (Sinn Fein), Mike Nesbitt (UUP), Matthew O’Toole (SDLP) and Stewart Dickson (Alliance).

All agreed it was important for the Executive to be up and running following the May 5 election, but differed over how much Stormont can do to help deal with the issue of rising costs.

Mr O’Toole said it was important to acknowledge the severity of the situation for small businesses.

He advocated for a task force to look at the impact of rising prices, not to meet and then report on, but to actually make sure the financial support is available and is directed towards where it is necessary and has the most impact.

The South Belfast candidate added micro businesses and small manufacturers which are energy intensive may need the most support. He raised the possibility of further rates holidays, too.

Mr Lyons said he could see the incoming administration providing further financial support if it was available. But he added while short-term measures were important, a longer term energy strategy will have greater impact going forward.

Politics Unplugged

Sign up to Suzanne Breen's Politics Unplugged newsletter for expert analysis of what's important at Stormont.

This field is required

Ms Archibald urged the Treasury to act by cutting fuel duty and VAT on energy bills.

While Mr Dickson said short-term measures will be difficult because it was unknown whether the Executive will actually return.

“In the longer term, we are proposing an additional department for Stormont, a Department for Energy,” Mr Dickson said, adding this was “a planet crisis”.

He added that all the departments were “working in silos” on this issue, and one was needed to bring it all together.

Strangford candidate Mr Nesbitt added: “The best and first thing we need to do… is to listen to what are the issues and then decide whether we can tackle them as a devolved government or whether we look to London.”

He believes there should be an essential users fuel rebate to help businesses.

On the collapse of the Executive and the failure to pass a multi-year budget, Mr Lyons said the Brexit protocol was the problem and “is injecting poison into the politics now”.

He said his party wanted to see a more stable environment.

Ms Archibald said the parties were in discussions over the budget when the DUP collapsed the Executive.

She added the biggest problem for the Department for the Economy was the loss of £100m in EU funding due to Brexit.

Mr Nesbitt said the budget needed to be aligned with the programme for government, but otherwise decried the short-term tactics of the DUP in bringing down the institutions.

Mr Dickson said he wanted all the parties to be around the table on May 6/7 and committed to government. He does not believe the UK or the EU will let Northern Ireland down when striking a deal over the protocol.

All the representatives agreed on the need for a child care strategy, and largely on cuts to corporation tax, though with reservations, including the impact it would have on the block grant.


Top Videos



Privacy