Sinn Féin - On Your Side

A devastating blow for the fuel poor

22 September, 2005

Sinn Féin Economic spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA, has called today's announcement of a 30% price increase in natural gas a devastating blow for fuel poor gas consumers and has called for an urgent response from Government Ministers to address the impact that the increase will have on fuel poverty.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"Already in the north there are crippling levels of fuel poverty, and many low income and vulnerable households have been connected to Phoenix Natural Gas in recent years. Gas was brought in as a subsidised industry to help tackle the high levels of fuel poverty.

"I am calling for urgent action by the Minister for Social Development and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment to deliver immediate financial assistance to fuel poor households who will be deeply concerned by this increase.

"Sinn Féin will not tolerate vulnerable members of our community such as older people, people with disabilities and children going cold during winter months. These Ministers must take action now to reassure and support the fuel poor."

"I will be writing to Ministers requesting an urgent meeting to ensure action is taken on a package of support. I am also disappointed at the failure of Phoenix Gas to protect its most vulnerable customers - those who pay by pre-paid metering - by skewing the increase towards customers who are more able to pay, as they had done with previous price increases.

"I would also call for a commitment from Phoenix Gas that there would be a reduction in domestic gas prices when international prices have stabilised. This increase underlines the need to ensure an ongoing development of sustaining renewable energy supply as an alternative to fossil fuels." ENDS

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