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De Brún calls for long term strategy to tackle fuel poverty and rising cost of living.

30 July, 2008 - by Martina Anderson MEP

Sinn Féin MEP, Bairbre de Brun has today commented on the rising cost of living that citizens are facing on a daily basis and called for a long term strategy to tackle the consumer impact of the soaring cost of living.

Ms de Brún said: 'With the average family paying up to forty pounds extra per week for essentials which include food, heat, electricity and mortgage, we are clearly witnessing a credit crunch. Household bills are rising way above any increase in household incomes. Such is the effect on consumers that I have been informed by many people of dilemmas they have faced over recent weeks. This includes some people who paid for holidays at the time of booking and are now unable to go because of not having been able to save towards spending money and items needed. Others face even starker choices.'

Ms de Brún called for immediate action to be taken to help consumers this winter alongside the development of long term strategies to tackle the consumer impact of the soaring cost of energy on three fronts: energy costs, household income and energy efficiency. She said the consumer impact is stark - particularly in the Six-Counties where many are being plunged into financial hardship.

Ms de Brún continued: 'Hard choices for people will get more desperate as we face the winter months. The plight facing many consumers is clear - decisions to be made whether to eat or heat. These are decisions we do not want people to have to make, especially vulnerable sections of our community including older people.

'The Minister for Social Development, Margaret Ritchie, needs to take action to help fuel-poor and low-income households. Short and long term steps must be taken to meet the needs of vulnerable consumers in the face of rising energy prices. The Winter Fuel Payment must be overhauled as it doesn't get to everyone who needs it. It also needs to be increased in line with the steep rise in fuel prices since the rate was set in 2003.

'A cross-departmental strategy also needs to be put in place to ensure greater fuel efficiency in existing homes, including improvements to insulation schemes. Such a strategy could tackle three major issues in tandem - energy efficiency in relation to climate change, fuel poverty and the downturn in the building industry'.


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