PLATFORM: 'We need ministers working together to meet cost of living challenges'
WE are in the midst of a cost of living crisis with soaring inflation and the rising prices of food, fuel energy and clothes.
Recently announced price hikes by electricity provider Power NI and gas supplier Firmus came into effect yesterday, adding hundreds of pounds to annual bills.
And while many of the factors contributing to this crisis are global and cannot be controlled by the local Executive or even national governments, there are actions that could be taken to alleviate the pain being felt by the public.
Families are already struggling but there is no doubt that things will be worse come Autumn when the heating has to be turned on and days are getting shorter.
There is currently £435 million sitting in a Stormont bank account that cannot be spent while the DUP block the formation of the Executive.
That is entirely unacceptable. All parties stood in the election with promises in manifestos to tackle the cost of living, we now need parties taking up their seats around the Executive so ministers can put those promises into action.
While the Executive and Assembly can do some things to help, many of the powers to help people rest with the British government.
Over the past couple of weeks however we have seen how out of touch this British government actually is. On one hand British ministers are lambasting rail workers striking for better pay and conditions, while on the other reportedly proposing to remove restrictions on the amount that top bankers can get paid in bonuses.
This is a British government that has shown itself to be an anti-worker and anti-working class, but Boris Johnson and his Chancellor should quickly get to grips with the challenges facing people before the Autumn hits and things get worse.
We need to see real action on soaring fuel and energy prices. The British Chancellor can and should act to cut fuel duty and VAT in a meaningful way that will actually be visible at the pumps when filling your petrol tank.
Rapidly rising costs are also creating a crisis for businesses. They need to be supported so that jobs are protected and workers' pay reflects the price rises being experienced.
We need to see the reintroduction of reduced VAT for hospitality businesses and reinstatement of the red diesel rebate – the timing of those changes could not have been worse, businesses and particularly small businesses, are struggling with soaring costs and need help.
While the British government finally moved to introduce a windfall tax on energy companies, more needs to be done to ensure that the burden of the cost of living crisis is shared according to those best able to carry it.
Big corporations need to pay their way and governments need to make sure they do - shareholders shouldn't be pocketing huge profits while workers and families are struggling to heat their homes and feed their families.
The cost of living and inflation crisis is already hitting people in many different ways, we need local ministers in an Executive working together to meet those challenges head on and leading together.
Caoimbe Archibald is Sinn Féin MLA for East Derry.