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Concern at Ritchie plan to give NIE £13 million

10 December, 2008 - by Carál Ní Chuilín

Sinn Féin Social Development Spokesperson, North Belfast MLA Carál Ní Chuilín has expressed concern at reports that the Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie is proposing to give NIE £13 million as part of her response to the fuel poverty crisis.

Ms Ní Chuilín said:

"Fuel poverty is a daily reality for thousands of families across the north. We need to see a concrete plan of action from the Executive and particularly Margaret Ritchie, the Minister responsible for delivering on this.

"I am very concerned that it appears the Minister wants to hand over some £13 million to NIE for them to administer the scheme. This is the company that has made huge profits while putting up its prices by nearly 50%."It appears that while the Minister is looking for £13 million for this scheme that it will include over £3 million for NIE and that the outworking of this is really to guarantee income for NIE.

"I think many people are concerned at the politicking, particularly by the SDLP around this important issue. Time and time again the Minister raises expectation without actually doing her homework.

"It has now emerged also that the Minister has no mechanism to actually deliver this money to people and that she knows that she would need to bring in primary legislation to the Assembly. This means that we are unlikely to see any scheme in place until February or March next year. This delay in bringing forward any workable scheme to tackle fuel poverty is a disgrace. The Minister also failed to bid for any money for fuel poverty at either of the last two opportunities in June and September.

"Rather than using vulnerable people in our society to score petty political points the Minister needs to get on with producing a workable plan of action to tackle fuel poverty, including looking at the new funds now available from Europe, at issue like the introduction of a social tariff and at the money from NIE profits that the company uses to tackle fuel poverty." ENDS

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