Leader of the Opposition Matthew O’Toole MLA has called on Caretaker Finance Minister Conor Murphy to outline what steps he is taking to address the cost of living crisis.
He was speaking after the Department of Finance confirmed a significant portion of the £400m plus currently deadlocked at Stormont could be used for the £400 energy payment scheme.
Caretaker Ministers remain in post with responsibility for significant departmental budgets and many have made ‘at-risk’ spending decisions outside of formal agreement in the absence of an Executive.
Mr O’Toole has urged the Finance Minister to work with colleagues and co-ordinate a response to the crisis which will leave many families facing destitution this winter.
Matthew O’Toole MLA said:
“Caretaker Ministers have remained in place for months now in spite of the reckless DUP strategy to prevent the formation of an Executive. While there are limitations placed on them in the current circumstances, they retain significant spending power and some have chosen to expand the limits of that power with ‘at-risk’ allocations to vital services.
“In the current environment, there is no more vital service than getting support to people and families across Northern Ireland facing destitution as a difficult autumn and winter approaches. NHS leaders are warning we are facing a humanitarian crisis, that people’s health and potentially even their lives could be at risk without action, the situation we are facing couldn’t be more stark.
“The Finance Minister should be working with his fellow Caretaker Ministers to co-ordinate a response to the crisis, issuing directions to other departments to divert any available resource to programmes and schemes that will mitigate the impact of soaring food, fuel and energy bills. We are also seeking clarity on what work has been undertaken to identify current schemes with approvals that could be repurposed or refunded to get support out to those who need it right now.
“The Opposition is today calling on Conor Murphy to outline what steps he has taken to intervene given the emergency gripping communities.”