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Editorial: Price hike another blow for households

Householders already in despair at the skyrocketing cost of living were dealt another blow yesterday with a warning that gas prices are set to rise by another 30 per cent in October.

Energy prices have soared in recent months to levels never seen before with one unprecedented price hike being quickly followed by another.

Now Northern Ireland's utility regulator John French has said he expects a further increase in gas bills from October 1, as wholesale prices have risen sharply over the past six weeks after Russia cut supplies to Europe.

A dire situation has been exacerbated by other factors including Asian and South American countries buying more liquified natural gas, high temperatures in Europe and price rises in the US gas market.

Unfortunately, we are very much at the mercy of global forces with the war in Ukraine having a destabilising effect on the energy market.

We have also seen a dramatic impact on prices for a range of commodities, with many basic food items now costing significantly more than they did last year.

The spike in prices has pushed inflation to another high - 10.1 per cent - the biggest jump in the cost of living since February 1982.

With inflation set to hit 13 per cent in October, households and businesses are being placed in an impossible position as they try to budget for the autumn and winter months.

Another 30 per cent rise on top of already rampant gas prices will add to the anxiety levels of families.

The UK government has promised a £400 energy bill discount for householders, which is a help but will not be nearly enough as increases swallow up additional support.

However, disbursing even this modest amount seems to be fraught with difficulties.

Meetings with the regulator, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, economy minister Gordon Lyons and communities minister Deirdre Hargey took place to discuss the issue but agreement was not reached and instead a taskforce to come up with a solution was announced.

Mr French said there was a 'simple mechanism' that could get the funds out quickly.

It is deeply disappointing that a method of distributing this amount has not yet been set up and implemented.

As we move into the colder months, many people will feel they simply cannot afford to heat their homes and adequately feed their families.

Financial help is needed sooner, not later.

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