Thursday 7 June 2012

Social Development Minister must show leadership on fuel poverty and back the Green New Deal

Green Party leader Steven Agnew MLA has called on Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland to re-think his decision on the Green New Deal and to follow Scotland’s example with a National Retro-fit Insulation Scheme as announced by the Scottish Government today.

Last week the Minister announced that the money allocated for funding the Green New Deal home insulation retrofit scheme in Northern Ireland would be used for replacement boilers in Housing Executive properties.

Whereas, this week the Scottish Government announced a massive programme to transform Scotland’s ageing houses into energy efficient homes.

“Given that last week the Annual Report on Fuel Poverty Statistics showed that Northern Ireland had the greatest proportion of fuel poor households in the UK, the Ministers needs to urgently see the bigger picture,” Mr Agnew said.

“The Minister has tried to pass the buck regarding this decision and blame his civil servants on this short-sighted and financially inefficient decision.

“For years under direct rule we had civil servants running the country and now we have local democracy we need ministers to show strong leadership and involved engagement – something this Minister has clearly failed to do.

“The DUP committed to end Ministerial ‘solo runs’ but given that every party stated its support for the Green New Deal by giving unanimous backing to my motion in September last year for more funding for the scheme, Minister McCausland has gone on a solo run on this issue and has acted against the will of the Assembly.

“Stating that it he has taken these actions on the advice of his civil servants begs the question: ‘who is actually running the show?’

“Tackling fuel poverty needs wide ranging strategy and advance planning as it is an issue that is only going to escalate for all households as fossil fuel prices continue to soar.

“The Scottish program will offer a range of free or discounted heating and home insulation measures to people living in older homes across Scotland who struggle with fuel poverty.

“We need a similar scheme which will help tackle fuel poverty across the board in Northern Ireland.

“This will in turn benefit the wider economy as hard-pressed families will have more money in their pockets and this will then filter into the local economy.

“The Minister needs to show a leadership in this issue and bring forward a program measures to actually tackle fuel poverty for all local families and he only has to look to our Scottish neighbours to see how that can be achieved.”