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McGill welcomes proposals from Deputy First Minister to tackle spiralling energy and living costs

15 September, 2008

Sinn Féin West Tyrone MLA Claire McGill says that she hopes that proposals made today by Deputy First Minister Martin Mc Guinness, aimed at tackling the growing burden on households arising from spiralling energy and living costs, will be agreed by all Executive Ministers in advance of tomorrow's meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

She said,

"I very much welcome the written proposals that Deputy First Minister Martin Mc Guinness has submitted to First Minister Peter Robinson. I hope that the package of measures that he is proposing will now be accepted by all Executive Ministers in advance of tomorrow's meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown as it is essential that a united approach is adopted so as to exert the maximum leverage on the British Exchequer to make a meaningful contribution to help finance the relief measures that are so urgently required..

"The proposals that Martin Mc Guinness has put forward include:

  • The indefinite deferral of domestic contributions towards water and sewerage services.
  • The establishment of an emergency fund to address fuel poverty.
  • Making the redirection of departmental spending efficiencies and unspent money across all Departments a priority of the September Monitoring Round.
  • The establishment of a Ministerial sub-group on anti-poverty.
  • The initiation of a benefits entitlements uptake campaign.
  • Completion of the joint DARD/DSD 'Warm Homes Scheme'.
  • Commissioning of a bulk buying scheme for oil.
  • Piloting renewable energy schemes in government buildings.
  • Establishment of a Special Relief Scheme.
  • Convening roundtable meetings with the social partners.
  • Development of joint initiatives with the Irish Government.

"Acknowledging that there are global factors completely outside of our control and while acknowledging that there are fiscal constraints on what the Assembly can do to alleviate this crisis, because of the limited block budget coming from the British Exchequer, the immediate priority must nonetheless be the establishment of a hardship fund to ensure that whatever relief measures possible are provided to assist the many working families whose income has failed to keep up with inflation, the elderly, the unemployed and those dependent on other benefits.

"In the coming term, Assembly must concentrate minds and look at areas of any area of possible flexibility in terms of the autumn budget monitoring round review that could provide a seed contribution towards a hardship fund.

"The political parties must also unite in confronting British Prime Minister Gordon Browne on his visit here next week in demanding that this hardship fund be in part financed by the Energy providers and the British Treasury which will be in receipt of over £40 million in VAT returns from consumers here as a result of these increases.

"Viridian, which owns NIE is a private equity company making massive profits and should not be permitted to gouge consumers here in order to maintain the level of its shareholders dividends.

"It is also obscene in the extreme that earlier this year oil giants Shell and BP unveiled huge combined profits of £7.2bn, made in just a three month period, yet ever since consumers have been hit with new rounds of price hikes in fuel, gas and electricity.

"Therefore, the political parties here must also unite in the supporting the growing demand for Gordon Browne to introduce a windfall tax (to be ringfenced for cost of living relief purposes) on these, and other energy companies, excessive and obscene profits." ENDS

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