Appeal for Stormont fuel poverty task force

Appeal for Stormont fuel poverty task force

12 January 2022

LOCAL politicians have urged a leading Stormont department to establish a fuel poverty task force.

There was across-the-board political support for the proposal by councillors David Taylor and Alan Lewis at a recent meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council.

The appeal to the Department for Communities comes at a time when many people find themselves with difficult choices to make when it comes to heating their homes, with those on low incomes often prioritising heating over eating.

Cllr Lewis said he was delighted there was unanimous support for the appeal to the government department, suggesting it’s an “unfortunate reality” that elected representatives receive calls from constituents in distress on this particular issue.

He continued: “Sadly, for some, it really is a case of heating or eating and this issue isn’t unique to those in receipt of social welfare benefits, it affects those on low and medium incomes and those on zero-hour contracts without reliable income or a guaranteed salary. 

“Stormont cannot leave these people behind and there must be a concentrated effort to ensure parity of esteem.”

Cllr Lewis said the4 issue left him awake, worried that some people in the Slieve Croob area which he represents, were in “desperate need of assistance”.

He said UUP councillors in other councils had tabled motions on the fuel poverty issue and had been supported.

“We are calling for the establishment of a fuel poverty taskforce to deal with the short, medium and longer-term challenges with the move supported by many in the community and voluntary sector who work daily to support those impacted by fuel poverty,” Cllr Lewis explained.

“It is vital that Minister Hargey delivers on this call. Time is of the essence and I would ask the Minister to ensure that a support fund and the task force are in place urgently as many across Northern Ireland desperately need solutions and support.”

Cllr Lewis that any family should face a choice of heating or eating is “intolerable” and highlights the need for swift action to be taken. 

He added: “Establishinga task force to deal with this crucial matter which brings forward long term solutions in the immediate future is vital. There is a moral responsibility to do so to address the significant plight faced by many families.”