Oil and gas prices rocket again as Derry and Inishowen households feel the pinch

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Calls have been made for the British government to raise taxes on energy companies and for the NI Executive to help alleviate the suffering of people facing spiralling fuel and other living costs.

Gas prices in Derry, Limavady and other parts of the north increased again last week by 33.57%, while the invasion of Ukraine and western countries cutting off ties as part of sanctions on Russia also pushed up already rising oil prices.

As of this afternoon (Wednesday) oil prices in Derry have shot up to between around £400 to £440 for 500 litres.

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Over the border in Inishowen in Donegal the price is now standing at between around Euro 510 to 540 for 500 litres.

Some of the attendance at the Derry Against Fuel Poverty rally. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2206GS – 136Some of the attendance at the Derry Against Fuel Poverty rally. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2206GS – 136
Some of the attendance at the Derry Against Fuel Poverty rally. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2206GS – 136

There are also fears that food prices, which have already shot up overt the past few years, could rise again as importation supply lines from eastern Europe are severed.

SDLP Foyle MLA Sinéad McLaughlin this week published the party’s updated Cost of Living Action Plan. This was originally published in November last year, but not approved by the Northern Ireland Executive.

An updated version has now published by McLaughlin, recognising changes in circumstances over the last three months - including even higher energy prices and the subsequent publication of the Department for the Economy’s energy strategy, as called for in the original action plan.

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McLaughlin said: “It is imperative that all Executive ministers take the action they can, even after the DUP’s First Minister walked away from his responsibilities.

Households are feeling the effects as oil and gas prices continue to rise.Households are feeling the effects as oil and gas prices continue to rise.
Households are feeling the effects as oil and gas prices continue to rise.

“We must see greater action from those ministers still in their role. In particular, this falls to the communities minister, who has still not published an updated Fuel Poverty Strategy and must provide greater support to families in need. We also need to see the communities and health ministers work together to find ways to support families with disabled children who need higher levels of home heating.

“The economy minister must prepare legislation to reform the role of the Utility Regulator, to cap the profit of energy companies and promote the use of zero carbon heating, in place of his current and outdated role of promoting the use of gas.

“While the DUP has created a crisis by walking away from the First Minister role, this is no reason for other ministers to fail to act.”

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Sinn Féin Derry MLA Ciara Ferguson meanwhile said recently that the latest hike in prices for gas was a ‘huge blow’ to already struggling workers and families.

The Foyle assembly member said: “Gas prices and the cost of living is out-of-control and this hike in prices will only add more pressure to ordinary people and hardworking families who are already struggling.

“We have recently met with Firmus, who are the only provider in the city, and made it clear to them that these hikes are totally unacceptable.

“The British government needs to immediately put a windfall tax on big energy companies who have made huge profits and redirect the money back into people’s pockets. They need to stop punishing working families and scrap plans to hike National Insurance in April. They have the power to do this, and they must act now.”

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Firmus said the latest increase on tariffs will mean an extra £5.95 per week on to the average household bill here.

The latest increase to the natural gas tariff applies to the Ten Towns Network area, but does not apply to Belfast Firmus customers.

When asked to clarify this, a spokesperson for Firmus said yesterday: “We fully understand the difficult position many are in with the continued increases in the cost of living. Unfortunately, due to sustained high prices in wholesale gas markets we have had no option but to increase our gas tariffs recently.

“firmus energy supply operates in two separate Licensed Areas; Ten Towns and Greater Belfast and tariffs are reviewed separately. Whilst each market area is subject to differences in their tariff build up the key differential at present is one of timing. Gas for both areas is purchased from the same wholesale commodity market.

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Customers who need advice on their natural gas bills or direct debit payments should contact the firmus energy customer services team on 0330 024 9000. For free and independent advice on how to save energy please contact NI Energy Advice Line on 0800 111 4455.”

Earlier this month a new citizens’ group Derry Against Fuel Poverty staged a well attended rally in the city centre amid the growing cost of living crisis.

A spokesperson for the group said local gas customers will have by this week been confronted with a 194% price hike inside twelve months.

“This means that, on average, people will have had to find an additional £70 a month to heat their homes from one winter till the next. That is, on average, an extra £800 per year to heat their homes. It is absolutely scandalous and an impossible task for many,” the group warned.