Sinn Féin propose measures to tackle fuel poverty
Sinn Féin Social and Family Affairs Spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD, speaking to a Private Members Motion on fuel poverty in the Dáil this evening said despite the economic downturn there are still measures which can be taken by the Government to tackle fuel poverty if they use a bit of imagination. Deputy Morgan also proposed that extra VAT generated by rising fuel prices be ring-fenced to fund increases in the fuel allowance.
Speaking during the course of the debate he said, “Those who work with people suffering from fuel poverty would have welcomed the announcement of an early budget in October, because they have long pointed out that by the time December’s budget kicks in, more people suffer unnecessarily dire winter conditions. However, against the current climate of spending cuts speculation, they are probably dreading what they will hear in this year’s budget. We all remember the savage 16.
“Knowing this, it’s with hope, but not much expectation that I set out Sinn Féin’s proposals of what must be considered an absolute priority in this budget. The Government may think that it is a priority to give their developer friends a leg-up in Budget 2009 – but they’re wrong. Not letting people freeze to death should be the priority of any right-thinking individual, in any economic circumstance.
“Bearing that in mind, Sinn Fein wishes to see an increase in the Fuel Allowance. We want the value of the gas discount in the Household Benefit Package to reflect the rise in the price of gas. The extra VAT generated by rising fuel prices must be ring-fenced to fund the increases in Fuel Allowance. And we also suggest that, as advocated by a number of groups dealing with the vulnerable, that the option of receiving fuel allowance in two lump sums in October and January is made available.
“After this winter, the Government must of course develop a national strategy to address fuel poverty. Wider issues like the Commission for Energy Regulation must be examined.
“Sinn Féin is also proposing a new scheme based on the Residential Renewable Energy Grants introduced in Budget 2006 specifically for low income households. Under the scheme that Sinn Féin is proposing anyone assessed as being entitled to the fuel allowance and having an entitlement under the free energy scheme, will be entitled to a grant to cover the full cost of installation of sustainable heating alternatives (to be open to both local authority tenants and homeowners who are entitled to fuel allowance). The introduction of this scheme will have the added benefit of further boosting the renewable energy industry while contributing to the state’s drive to reduce CO2 emissions.
“All of these proposals can contribute in some way to eradicating fuel poverty in Ireland. It is my hope that the Government takes this issue seriously and uses Budget 2009 to make a start.” ENDS