Political stalemate ‘failing families facing huge bills’

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP has said the current political stalemate is failing families facing huge energy bill increases.

Derry’s MP was speaking after analysis carried out by BFY estimated that energy price caps could double and that the average customer could end up “facing a bill of £500 in January alone”.

Mr Eastwood also reiterated calls he and others have made for the British government to clamp down on the massive profits being made by energy companies as a result of the current crisis.

Foyle MP Mr Eastwood said: “The news that energy bills could rise as high as £500 per month this January will be devastating for families across the North. People are already at their wits end worrying about how they are going to keep their homes warm throughout the winter and if these price rises continue thousands of families will be unable to afford heating with a significant impact on their health.

Foyle MP Colum Eastwood.

“People being hit hardest by spiralling energy costs must be in disbelief that Executive Ministers are set to hand back millions to the British Treasury in the face of the most severe household finance crisis in memory.

“As people suffer, the DUP continue their boycott of our institutions, regardless of the fact that there is over £400m at Stormont that we could be using to help them. The DUP are shrugging off any responsibility to help ease the financial burden on those struggling,” he claimed, adding:

“There also needs to be immediate action from the British government to stop energy companies profiting from the misery of people hit with these huge bills. They must put a cap on energy companies’ obscene profits and implement a windfall tax to raise money that can be put to much better use protecting people from these costs. We can’t allow a situation where families are rationing their heating heading into the autumn.”

Mr Eastwood said the SDLP’s Opposition at Stormont has a cost of living action plan and emergency legislation in place “that will get money into the pockets of families hit by the costs crisis and egregious energy costs as soon as our institutions are resorted”.

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“We can’t stand by and watch people suffer as a result of this crisis and the DUP and Tory government should be ashamed of their refusal to do anything meaningful to help,” he said.

The DUP recently criticised the SDLP as it claimed that the passage of the Protocol Bill through its stages in the House of Commons is ‘welcome and necessary’ for durable devolution.

East Belfast MLA Joanne Bunting accused the SDLP of stunt politics following a Recall motion.

She said: “Do they believe that by spending their time attacking both the Westminster Government and Unionist representatives in Parliament that this will build the necessary cross-community consensus to allow us to move forward?

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“ By now it ought to be clear to all concerned that only with the problem of the Protocol finally being dealt with will we be able to have the solid basis to restore the political balance in Northern Ireland and allow us to help working families at both Stormont and Westminster.”