THE UK government must do more to help people struggling with the cost of living crisis, Stormont finance minister Conor Murphy has said in a new joint letter to the British Chancellor alongside his Scottish and Welsh counterparts.
Mr Murphy joined Scotland's finance secretary Kate Forbes and Welsh minister for finance Rebecca Evans in submitting the letter to recently appointed Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, to highlight "key areas which require attention" ahead of a UK budget.
They warned that the key to tackling the cost of living crisis lay with Westminster, and urged action ahead of further rises in energy prices.
The letter also called for the Chancellor to develop a fair approach to public sector pay and an increase in devolved budgets.
"Whilst we recognise the measures taken by the UK government to date have relieved some of the pressure on households, further action is required to address significant gaps in support for vulnerable households, families, businesses and the delivery of services," the ministers stated.
"The prospect that the Autumn energy price cap increase will be more than anticipated will only add to the pressures they are facing. The UK Government must also take more concerted steps to ensure more sustainable energy prices in the longer-term.
"The cost of living crisis is not evenly distributed, and the focus should be on providing targeted support to those most adversely impacted, rather than reducing broad-based taxes. Neither should tax cuts result in tighter controls on spending which will impact on delivery of public services which are already facing immense pressures."
Meanwhile, the devolved ministers also said of public sector pay that it is "essential to treat the public sector workforce fairly".
Calling for a "fair and appropriate response" on the issue, the letter urged Mr Zahawi to "give firmer assurances on sensible pay uplifts".
Speaking of "inflationary pressures", the ministers warned: "Our budgets for the next three years are now worth considerably less than when we formulated our spending plans last year. In addition to the public pay bill and the rising public energy costs, there are other significant emerging pressures for our services, including education and enabling NHS recovery and reform. Our Budgets should be uplifted in line with these pressures."
The UK Treasury was contacted for comment last night.
Upon his appointment as Chancellor, Mr Zahawi said he wanted to "help the lives of hard-working families and devote my time and efforts to tackling the global inflation crisis".
He has backed the UK's cost of living payments scheme for those on means-tested benefits - due to begin in the north next week - and said last week he was "keeping an eye" on the energy price cap.