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Phoenix Gas Price Increase: Sinn Féin calls for implementation of Fuel Poverty strategy

17 September, 2004

Sinn Féin economic spokesperson and Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin MLA, commenting on the 11.3% price increase by Phoenix Gas, has stated that while any increase is unwelcome Sinn Féin recognises that Phoenix Gas has tried to keep the price increase as low as possible.

Mr McLaughlin stated:

"While there are unavoidable reasons for this price increase, it is clear that it will impact most on fuel poor households. However, it is unacceptable that government has not yet implemented a fuel poverty strategy.

"Over 200,000 homes - one third of the total - in the north of Ireland are in fuel poverty and 1,300 pensioners die each year from temperature related deaths. Coming on the back of rates increases and water charges it is imperative for government to implement an anti-poverty strategy that really works. It is the responsibility of government to look after the most vulnerable in society.

"Commitments given for the creation of an all-Ireland gas industry must also be followed through as a matter of urgency. An island wide gas industry, operating in a larger market, makes economic sense and will cut costs for customers."

"Sinn Féin is aware that Phoenix Gas has been in extensive discussions with the Regulator and with the General Consumer Council on this issue and has arrived at the lowest price increase possible. This price increase must be seen in the context of increasing fuel costs globally. The reasons for this price increase can be tracked and explained. Sinn Féin welcomes the transparency surrounding this process.

"However this will not give comfort to Phoenix Gas customers who will face an average increase of just under £40 per year. The General Consumer Council has issued some very sound energy efficiency advice to customers which, if followed, could help offset some of the price increases and we would encourage people to follow that advice." ENDS

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