People Before Profit Cllr Shaun Harkin said,
“No matter how much the political establishment seeks to sideline issues of hardship, deprivation and growing inequality – they aren’t going away.
During the Christmas break the Sinn Féin Communities Minister announced a £2 million emergency fuel payment scheme. This is a completely inadequate response to say the least.
As many scrambled with income loss during the pandemic the Communities Minister gifted the Royal County Down Golf Club £1.5 million in funding – but now we’re told £2 million is all that’s available for 20,000 struggling families. What kind of message of ‘worth’ is this sending out?
Derry has nearly 30% living below the poverty line – this scheme isn’t fit to help even families and individuals facing hardship in Derry.
The paltry funding underscores the failure of the Communities Minister and the Executive to take seriously the cross-community hardship crisis. It’s not only the most vulnerable who are struggling – increasing numbers of workers cannot make ends meet.
The Executive continues to refuse to declare a hardship emergency that prioritises putting protections in place for the growing numbers of people impacted by unaffordable energy costs and cost of living increases.
It was announced the scheme was done in collaboration with energy companies who put in a combined £250,000. Is that really all that can be asked from profitable energy companies?
Concerns have also been raised about how the fuel payments will be distributed. How can the Minister and the Executive guarantee hardship funding goes to those who genuinely need it?
The response from the Executive thus far has been too little, too late. There’s no urgency when it comes to tackling the pandemic of inequality blighting our communities.
The Communities Minister and the Executive are failing the vast majority. We need to up the people power pressure for immediate action on hardship and a reordering of priorities at Stormont.”