Northern Ireland news

Stormont parties criticise Tories over row backs that include recent pledges on energy cost support

New chancellor Jeremy Hunt and PM Liz Truss criticised over a series of row backs on economic policy
John Manley

STORMONT's parties have heaped criticism on Liz Truss and her new chancellor in the aftermath of a series of row backs on economic policy.

Jeremy Hunt, who on Friday was brought-in to replace the sacked Kwasi Kwarteng, yesterday confirmed the reversal of almost all the tax cuts his predecessor announced last month.

He also revealed that the Energy Support Scheme, which originally capped household energy bills at £2,500 for two years from October 1, would be reviewed in April.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said the move demonstrated that the chancellor was "firmly on the road back to austerity".

"At a time when public services are under immense pressure the government should be investing in them not indicating spending cuts," the Sinn Féin minister said.

He called on the British government to recognise the "extreme hardship" faced by society's most vulnerable.

"The cost-of-living crisis is having a profound impact on households and families who deserve some certainty around their future financial outlook," he said.

"It is already a stressful time for people, with many facing rising mortgage costs as a result of the chaotic mini-budget."

DUP MP Sammy Wilson called for more information on the support for energy users.

"These are serious matters where families are looking at hard-hitting fuel and energy bills whilst also concerned about interest rates and their borrowing commitments," the East Antrim representative said.

He said more detail was required "about how energy supports will be targeted after April 2023".

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said the mini-budget U-turn was "both farcical and inevitable".

He called for Ms Truss to resign, saying her "credibility is shot to pieces".

"The government's financial recklessness now brings further consequences for us in Northern Ireland," said the North Down MP.

"There is now a big question regarding the scale and scope of the energy price support for households after next April, moreover, cuts to public spending in Whitehall will erode the value of the Northern Ireland block grant."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the review of energy support was "forcing working people into a cliff edge situation" that would leave many unable to heat their homes.

"This comes on top of expected cuts to public spending which disproportionately impact working families and vulnerable households, and still, this government refuses to introduce additional windfall taxes on energy giants who are making money hand over fist – that is an utter injustice," the Foyle MP said.