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Fuel Poverty: Stark reality of problem in Antrim and Newtownabbey area revealed

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council receives 12 to 15 calls per month from residents who are living without heat, a report to councillors has stated.

The council’s Operations Committee has been told that these households are experiencing “severe or extreme fuel poverty”.

Councillors have been warned that this figure is “likely to rise”.

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In response, the local authority is proposing to buy 30 electric heaters for loan at a cost of £2,500.

Gas prices rise

It is anticipated that this short-term provision will assist residents while energy efficiency grants are being processed.

The proposed heater lending scheme will operate on a referral basis from  health professionals or community organisations in the borough. Referrals to Advice NI for financial assistance will also be included.

On Tuesday, Firmus Energy announced an increase of 24.54% for gas customers in the Greater Belfast area from July 1 meaning the annual gas bill of a typical household will rise by about £300 per year.

On June 1, SSE Airtricity announced that it is set to increase its Greater Belfast gas tariff by 42.7% from July 1, impacting around 187,000 homes.

Cash

Power NI is set to increase its electricity tariff by 27.5% from July 1 impacting over 461,000 households by increasing bills by around £200 per year. Read more

Consumer Council

Raymond Gormley, Head of Energy Policy at the Consumer Council, said: “Every one of the frequent energy price increases has meant a growing number of people being really badly impacted and we know from working with consumers that many are having to choose specific days and times when they can heat their homes and put on their lights.

“High prices will make the coming winter miserable for many and life threatening for some without the introduction of significant support for consumers.

“These increases, mainly due to the sustained high price of wholesale gas, follow well-publicised rises in home heating oil, coal, electricity, grocery, and transport fuel costs. This is particularly bad news for consumers in vulnerable situations and low-income households. It also means a wider group of households than before are having their budgets stretched ever further.”

“We urge anyone who is struggling to pay their energy bills or top-up their meters to contact their supplier directly for help and support. We also encourage consumers to think about ways they can reduce their energy costs through energy efficiency and if possible, try to save money over the summer months to cover energy costs during the coming winter.” Read more

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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Additional funding to help tackle food poverty in Newtownabbey