Carla Lockhart MP and Utility Regulator John French
Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart has met with Utility Regulator Chief Executive John French to discuss ongoing increases in energy costs, and what support can be offered to customers struggling to meet the rising prices.
Carla Lockhart said:
“Over recent months we have witnessed a sharp rise in the cost of energy, both for domestic and commercial customers. For households and businesses this had added an extra layer of financial pressures at a time when for many the budget is already stretched.
"The Utility Regulator is responsible for regulating the electricity, gas, water and sewerage industries in Northern Ireland, promoting the short and long-term interests of consumers. With this in mind, I thought it appropriate to meet the Chief Executive, John French, to relay the feedback and experiences I have had relayed to me by families in the area who are really stretched, and businesses who have seen their bills for electricity alone rocket by up to £30,000 a quarter compared to last year.
"These are not easy issues to resolve as they are driven by world markets. But we must do what we can to both keep cost down, and also to support those in fuel poverty, to keep essential energy coming to their homes. For businesses we also need to ensure energy costs literally do not put the lights out. I welcome the announcement from Communities Minister concerning a £2m fund for those in need. My fear is that it will not go far enough. I would ask the Minister to release the eligibility criteria urgently given that the need is immediate. In addition HM Government must step up to help in these extreme circumstances particularly for businesses.”