SDLP Leader of the Opposition Matthew O’Toole has called on caretaker Executive Ministers to use every option available to them to support people through the cost of living crisis.
Mr O’Toole was speaking after writing to all caretaker Ministers and permanent secretaries as the costs crisis deepens for families across Northern Ireland.
He challenged Ministers to outline what they are currently doing to mitigate the current situation and to put plans in place that can be enacted quickly when the Executive is restored.
South Belfast MLA Mr O’Toole said:
“The crisis facing families across Northern Ireland as a result of increasing food, fuel and energy bills just seems to be getting worse and worse. Before the recent Assembly election every party here committed to doing everything they could to help people get through it, nearly three months on prices have continued to rise and no help has been forthcoming.
“We are in a desperate situation and our politicians are letting people down. Today I have written to every Executive Minister and department asking them if they are doing everything they can to support struggling families. Has a cost of living taskforce been established? What support schemes are being put in place and how are we going to deal with winter and the pressures it will bring upon our health service and families.
“I acknowledge that because of the actions of the DUP our Executive isn’t functioning at full capacity, but Ministers remain in place and retain significant powers to help and plan for the future. There will come a time when the DUP have no choice but to end their boycott and if they cared at all for people here they would return at the recall next week. Their actions not only prevent us from using the money available to help people, but have created uncertainty around a £400 energy bills discount from the British government that people really need. When our institutions are restored we need to be ready to act, we need plans in place to tackle these issues and not the dither and delay that has permeated the halls of Stormont for far too long.
“The SDLP is determined to be an opposition that delivers for people and holds the Executive to account and the Ministers in place need to spell out exactly what they are doing to help people. We have a cost of living action plan in place and emergency legislation that will get the maximum amount of support to people as soon a Speaker is nominated and the Assembly restored. I cannot stress enough how difficult the situation is facing people in our communities, but we stand ready to work with anyone to get people the help they need.”