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Sinn Féin criticise approach to fuel poverty

3 July, 2006

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Poverty, North Belfast MLA Kathy Stanton speaking ahead of the launch of the first Annual Report of the Inter Departmental Group on Fuel Poverty in the Long Gallery at Stormont tomorrow, Tuesday 4th July, has criticised the approach of British direct rule ministers to fuel poverty and suggested investing in renewable energy options for fuel poor households that can deliver sustainable costs.

Speaking today Ms Stanton said:

"Only last week Sinn Féin led a delegation including fuel poverty and anti-poverty NGO's to meet with David Hanson to discus the issue of fuel poverty.

"The fact is that while there has been only minimal progress on eradicating the disgracefully high levels of fuel poverty that exist in the north that British direct rule ministers are failing to get to grips with a problem that just gets worse and worse. Barely a month goes by without an announcement that fuel prices are going to increase.

"Last month the cost of coal went up by 6.4%. Electricity went up by nearly 11% in March, and the cost of heating oil and natural gas are both increasing at rates far outstripping inflation. At the same time the overall cost of living continues to increase and there are the huge increases in rates and the threat of water charges.

"Yet, more and more people are being pushed into fuel poverty. Fuel poverty affects 1 in 3 and each year over 1000 older people die because of cold weather.

"It is unacceptable to continually blame global markets and high energy costs for the failure to tackle our high levels of fuel poverty.

"There can be no excuses because if people are living with fuel poverty excuses count for nothing. We need to see new and imaginative responses to the situation and, for example, develop renewable energy options for fuel poor households that can deliver sustainable costs.

"There would be greater progress and accountability if could send the British Direct Rule Ministers Home and take charge of the decision making progress. It is in all our interests to get the power-sharing Executive and Assembly back up and running as soon as possible." ENDS

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