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McGuinness announces plans to tackle economic hardship

15 December, 2008

Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP MLA and Peter Robinson have this morning announced that the Executive will make a payment of £150 to householders on pension credit and income support.

The £15million announcement was made following a meeting of the Executive in Stormont Castle.

The payment will be made to over 100,000 households through a new Rapid Response Capacity which will be fast tracked through the Assembly in the form of a new Financial Assistance Bill.

The Bill is expected to become law in January, making it one of the fastest pieces of legislation ever passed here.

Mr McGuinness said:

"In the future however OFMDFM can deploy the capacity to provide a rapid and effective response to any situation the Executive feels warrants the protection of local interests."

Ministers also outlined plans to engage further with banks and other financial institutions to explore means to ease the financial hardship being experienced by various sectors in the economy.

In a separate development the Ministers also promised that loan sharks who prey on the poor and the vulnerable must be put out of business

DETI's Trading Standards Service has launched a campaign advising consumers, who are unable to access credit through the usual mainstream channels such as bank loans or credit cards, not to resort to illegal money lenders.

Mr McGuinness added:

"These pragmatic and imaginative measures have been designed to help those in our society who have been hardest hit by the global downturn. Record levels of investment in our roads, schools hospitals and infrastructure will continue to create jobs in our hard pressed construction industry. Schemes to provide help to those who face difficulties with mortgages and fuels costs have been introduced. And initiatives to assist our SME's who form the backbone of our economy are being put in place.

"By engaging with a wide range of stakeholders we have been able to identify a number of measures that we believe will combat the worst local effects of the credit crunch. As an Executive we are united in our commitment to continue to do all in our power to ensure that our people are protected and sheltered in every way possible from the worst effects of the difficult times that we face."

Note to Editors

The package has been split into five broad areas. Energy and fuel poverty, debt arising from the increasing cost of living and unemployment, support for the housing market and construction industry, support for household budgets and support for businesses.

In dealing with the problem of energy prices the Executive welcomed this morning's announcement by the Energy Regulator that energy prices would be driven down over the coming months.

A total of £21million has been allocated to the warms homes scheme to making housing more energy efficient.

To deal with the increased debt that results from any economic downturn the DETI has put in place a £1.2million contract to Citizens Advice for another three years to continue to provide free, effective, high quality debt advice at centres here.

DSD has been allocated a total of £150million for social housing and adjusted the scope of the co-ownership and house sales schemes to make buying a home more affordable.

To help the construction industry the Executive has announced its intention to press ahead with proposals for the Titanic signature project is providing more than £40million towards the £97million project creating more that 600 jobs.

There have been unprecedented levels of investment in roads, hospitals, schools and infrastructure which, in this financial year alone, has seen spending of close on £1.5billion, a level more than twice that of just a few years ago.

This spending creates jobs, improves services and stimulates our economy.

To help ordinary people and households the Executive has already announced several initiatives that will reduce the cost of public services including, extending the free bus scheme for the elderly at a cost of £4million; the reduction of prescription charges to £3, implementing a freeze of domestic rates at a cost of £61million and waiving domestic water charges for 2009/10.

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