SDLP Derry councillor Brian Tierney has called on Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to urgently publish a fuel poverty strategy.
It comes after the SDLP launched its energy costs action plan this week.
Included in the plan is a demand that the Department for Communities urgently publish a plan to tackle fuel poverty affecting people across the North.
The North’s last fuel strategy was published in 2011.
Councillor Tierney said:
“It’s inconceivable that while people across the North have been plunged into fuel poverty this winter that immediate support has not been forthcoming from Minister Hargey. While we have heard warm words and talk of bidding for funding that will do nothing to actually heat people’s homes with the cold snap already well underway.
“I know from my work as a councillor the impact that fuel poverty has on people. Parents are forced to go without food to keep their children warm, pensioners are forced out of their homes because they simply can’t afford to heat them. Cold and damp living conditions also have a serious effect on people’s mental and physical health.
“It has been ten years since the last fuel strategy was published for the North and at that time fuel poverty was estimated at 22%, already a disgraceful figure. With the recent spiralling energy bill costs, the cost of living crisis, national insurance rises and the £20 weekly cut to Universal Credit, overseen by Minister Hargey and her Sinn Féin colleague Conor Murphy, I fear the situation could now be much worse.
“We need Minister Hargey to produce an updated fuel poverty strategy that establishes the number of people in the North currently struggling to heat their homes and introduces measures to combat this in both the long and short term. While the Joint First Ministers and relevant Executive Ministers have abandoned people suffering from fuel poverty this winter the SDLP has stepped up to produce our plan and it must be implemented before its too late.”