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Cutting gas and electricity allowances is indefensible – Ó Snodaigh

20 July, 2011 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD

Sinn Féin Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh has criticised Minister Joan Burton for cutting allowances for gas and electricity particularly as prices are currently rising.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh accused the government of passing on gas and electricity price increases to pensioners by cutting the allowances. This means that the State will be paying less while pensioners will have to pay the increase.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh questioned the Minister on this issue in the Dáil today.

Speaking afterwards he said:

“By cutting the gas and electricity units allowance to pensioners the government is simply passing on the projected price increase to pensioners. The State will end up paying less while pensioners will be forced to pay more.

“At a time when prices are rising sharply the Minister Burton is cutting the gas and electricity units allowance of pensioners by 20% and 25% respectively.

“Attempting to defend these indefensible cuts in recent days the Minister has repeatedly argued that 21% of those in receipt of the household benefits package don’t use up their current units therefore it’s ok to cut the allowance. But neither she nor her Department know anything at all about the circumstances of that 21% or the circumstances of the remaining 79%.

“She does not now who the 21% are? She doesn’t know how many of the 21% are sitting in the cold and dark, scrimping and saving and scared to turn the lights or heat on for fear the bill that arrives will exceed their allowance of free units.

“The minister does not know if people are wintering in Spain or if they are in hospitals or nursing homes for part of the month and don’t need the units for that reason.

“And crucially the minister doesn’t know how many of the 2,000 people who die from the excesses of winter each year are amongst the 21% who aren’t using their full allowance of free units.

“It is completely unsafe to base a cut to every pensioner’s benefits package on the simplistic statistic that 21%, about whom we know absolutely nothing, aren’t using the full allowance?” ENDS

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