SDLP Leader of the Opposition Matthew O’Toole has said that a £100 payment to home heating oil users is completely inadequate and would condemn families to cold homes this winter.
Mr O’Toole was speaking after the UK government confirmed the £100 would be paid in the form of a credit towards electricity bills.
He said this would do little to help people purchase much needed oil and urged the government to adopt the SDLP’s proposal to provide 1000 litres of free home heating oil to every qualifying household through a voucher scheme.
South Belfast MLA Matthew O’Toole said:
“The derisory £100 in extra support being provided to home heating oil customers by the government will do extremely little to help people actually get oil into their tanks. Ignoring that most oil companies do not start delivering until a much larger order has been made, paying this money to people through their electricity bills will provide no help to those without disposable income because they are already struggling to pay for the bare necessities and can't afford to put any money towards buying oil in the first place.
“The SDLP has proposed a solution that will help the majority of people in Northern Ireland heat their homes this winter and prevent them from getting ill or worse. We are only party that has attempted to address this desperate situation and we need to see the SDLP's plan for 1000 litres of home heating being provided to those who need it introduced before it’s too late, temperatures are already plummeting and the pressure on families is increasing every day. We have seen similar support brought forward for gas customers and I see no valid reason why the same can't be done for those who rely on oil.
“We cannot allow people to be left in the cold this winter because of a British government that cares little about an issue that mainly impacts people in the North and the DUP’s insistence on pursuing identity politics while hard-working people go cold and hungry as a result of their refusal to do their jobs. This £100 ‘support’ totally ignores the reality of the emergency facing families across the North, they need real help, and they need it now.”