'Use energy tax windfall to help fuel-poor households'
The Government has been urged to plough a tax windfall from raised electricity prices in Northern Ireland into an emergency package of measures to alleviate fuel poverty in the coming winter.
Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) has announced prices in the province are to rise by 14 per cent from July 1 and warned householders and businesses another hike was likely in the autumn.
There are fears the two rises together will amount to an increase of at least 30 per cent. The rise came on top of a 28 per cent increase in gas prices coming into effect in Northern Ireland in June, and ever more rises in home heating oil and coal.
The Consumer Council said the electricity rise would mean additional VAT payments of £10.5 million and said the Treasury should give something back to combat fuel poverty.
The watchdog's chief executive Eleanor Gill said Northern Ireland ministers should press their Westminster counterparts to act.
The relentless rise in energy prices, she said, meant the number of vulnerable households struggling to make ends meet was rising by the day.
"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. The sheer scale of these energy price increases should trigger an emergency financial package to help alleviate hardship in fuel-poor households this winter," she said.
Image: Northern Ireland's fuel-poor residents will be the worst affected by future energy price hikes