SDLP West Belfast councillor Paul Doherty has said that any new Executive must prioritise an updated fuel poverty strategy.
Councillor Doherty was speaking to mark Fuel Poverty Awareness Day on Thursday.
The fuel poverty strategy for Northern Ireland has not been updated since 2011.
Councillor Doherty said:
“The failure of the Executive and subsequent ministers to update the Fuel Poverty Strategy for over a decade has left thousands of families vulnerable during the price increases that we have seen in recent years. It was an SDLP Minister who introduced the previous strategy and today the SDLP Opposition is committing to pressing the next Communities Minister to implement this long overdue piece of work.
“Families across the North have faced eye-watering hikes in the cost of heating bills over the last few years while energy companies have enjoyed huge profits. At Westminster the SDLP was a key party of the coalition to secure an energy profits windfall tax and forcing the British government to stop these companies profiteering from the misery of others. Despite this, the removal of government support this winter has left many families facing a very difficult financial situation, with more and more people of all ages being left in cold homes, putting their physical and mental health at risk.
“I see first hand the need that exists in our communiites, with many people left with no choice but to turn to community and voluntary organisations for help and support. Just recently we saw how a scheme set up to support people with energy and other costs had to pause referrals due to unprecedented need, this is the reality for many people in the North who are really struggling to meet these costs.
“If Stormont does return it must prioritise the needs of families who are suffering due to the cost of living crisis and that includes a new funded fuel poverty strategy that reflects the increased need across the North over the past few years. The SDLP Opposition team will be making that case to ministers and ensuring that families are not abandoned the way they have been over the past few years.”