Northern Ireland news

DUP urged to back speaker's election that'll enable households to draw down energy rebate

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced additional support for households facing rising energy costs. Picture by Aaron Chown/PA Wire

THE DUP has been urged to clear the way for households in the north to receive support with their rising energy costs by backing the the election of an assembly speaker on Monday.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled further support for hard-pressed households on Thursday but like the money pledged in his spring statement, access to the funds could be blocked by the lack of Stormont executive.

The first tranche of support announced by the chancellor, giving each household a 'rebate' of £200, cannot be rolled out in Northern Ireland without an executive in place. The Treasury is understood to be investigating ways of getting the latest £200 directly to households rather than distributing it via the Barnett formula.

The scheme will be rolled out in Britain in October but the DUP is blocking the restoration of the institutions over its concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol. The assembly will meet on Monday to elect a speaker after a Sinn Féin tabled a motion, however, there is little expectation of a breakthrough.

According to Finance Minister Conor Murphy there is now £430 million in Stormont's coffers that cannot be spent due to the DUP's refusal to rejoin the executive.

SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole said it was "ridiculous" that ways were having to be devised to get households in the north the same financial support as those in Britain. He said one way of guaranteeing the payment was for the DUP to support the nomination of Patsy McGlone as speaker on Monday and by nominating a deputy first minister.

"It’s completely unacceptable that when money is available to provide an important lifeline to people it can become caught up in confusion and uncertainty due to the DUP’s refusal to get back to work and take part in our institutions," the South Belfast representative said.

"For months there has been over £300m sitting in Stormont’s bank accounts when people are crying out for help and we’ve been powerless to do anything about it."

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has said his situation is "different" to Rishi Sunak after the chancellor confirmed he would be donating his £400 energy bill rebate to charity.

When questioned if he would be following the chancellor's example, the Tory leader said it worked differently for him.

"I think my arrangements are different because I live in a government flat," he said.

"But I think it's important that people should recognise these payments will not necessarily cover the increased costs fully."

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