SDLP Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly has said people across the North will be simply unable to afford a 30% gas price increase.
Mrs Kelly said the continued rise in energy prices amidst the cost of living crisis was causing real panic in communities.
She was speaking after the Utility Regulator warned of the increase in the coming weeks.
Upper Bann MLA Mrs Kelly said:
“When is this going to stop? It seems like every few weeks we are now being told to expect a massive increase in the cost of essential utilities and we’re long past the point that ordinary families are no longer able to pay it. Given the increases of the last few months I have no idea how people are expected to pay these costs; we are going to reach the stage were people are forced to strictly ration their gas or be unable to turn it on at all.
“The SDLP has pushed and pushed Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to support people on this issue, and although her response has been completely inadequate there’s only realistically so much we can do in the face of global price rises. Last year, the SDLP put forward an energy costs action plan with concrete proposals to address the energy crisis in both the short and long-term and this too was ignored by Minister Hargey.
“Just this week Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy revealed he had left £100m of his budget unspent, with it now at risk of returning to the British government. Minister Hargey handed back over £20m of her own department’s budget allocation. This is money that could have gone to support local families and we need to see it redeployed to do some good as soon as possible.
“Families across the North have already seen their finances pushed to the absolute limit and this announcement will have left many feeling numb. These announcements have now become so frequent that they have lost all meaning to the average person. Unfortunately, many will not realise the impact until they receive their bill or go to top up their card and realise they simply can’t afford it.”