Thursday, August 12, 2010

éirígí claims Electricity Price Hike will lead to increased Fuel Poverty

The decision by the Minister for Energy Eamonn Ryan to give the go-ahead for a 5% increase in the price of electricity has been slammed by éirígí Sligeach's Gerry Casey who said it will cause increased fuel poverty and further hardship for the most vulnerable in society.

Minister Eamon Ryan

Casey was speaking following the unveiling last week of the Dublin governments plans to impose this price hike through a new public service obligation (PSO) levy which will come into force in October of this year.

Also critical of the new levy was Gerard Scully, spokesperson for Age Action who echoed éirígí's concerns over increased fuel poverty.  According to Scully "older people, because they are more fuel dependent than other groups in society, spend a high proportion of their income on fuel and energy."

He added:  "So any increase in either domestic heating fuel or electricity will mean those older people surviving on State pensions will find it increasingly difficult to maintain themselves with any sense of security or dignity.”

If people are in any doubt about the inevitably of increased fuel poverty, illness and death, one only needs to look at statistics compiled before the current recession took hold.  During the so-called boom of the Celtic Tiger, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) revealed how in 2008 more than 4% of people, a third of whom were children, lived in consistent poverty while almost 15% were at severe risk of poverty.

The Institute of Public Health in Ireland also revealed in research published in 2007, showed that almost 3000 people died every single year from preventable cold - related illnesses.  This, once again, is during the supposed economic 'boom' and well before the current recession.

Fast forward to last year 2009, and prior to that year's budget, St Vincent De Paul revealed how two thirds of welfare recipients already needed assistance to pay their fuel bills. They warned the government that any increased cuts in income or fuel costs  would increase hardship and poverty and see many people going without food and other necessities.

Their warnings were ignored by the ruling Fianna Fáil and Green party coalition who proceeded to slash the incomes of those already in poverty or at risk of poverty and increased fuel costs.  As unemployment continues to rise, income levels drop and fuel costs increase, it is quite clear that the numbers living in poverty, struggling to keep a roof over their head, put food on their table and heat their homes adequately, has increased rapidly and continues to do so as these cutbacks hit home.

Cold related illnesses and deaths were unacceptably high during the 'boom' years.  Now as incomes drop significantly and poverty levels increase rapidly so too will the numbers falling ill and even dying as a result. 

Here in the northwest, St Vincent De Paul (SVP) has already seen a 40% rise in calls for assistance to them in the first five months of this year.  One in four of those contacting the SVP are what the society describe as "newly in need", people who have never had to contact them for assistance in the past.  This is clear evidence once again of the extent of the poverty being created by the  deliberate policies of Fianna Fáil and the Green party.

Slamming the decision to impose this latest levy, Casey said:  "Once again it is the poorest in society, the unemployed, pensioners, the ill and low paid workers, who will be hit hardest by this new 'tax''.  It will cause untold hardship and suffering to families and individuals who are already suffering as a result of savage cuts in pay and social welfare imposed by a callous and uncaring government.  It will drive more and more families into poverty and particularly fuel poverty."

Casey added:  "Low paid workers and welfare recipients have already suffered immense hardship due to the extent of the savage cutbacks imposed over the past two years.  They have suffered cuts in their pay, in social welfare, child benefit, early childcare supplement, home help, school transport, and school book schemes, the scrapping of the Christmas bonus, and new prescription charges,  all of which have had a hugely negative impact on their standard of living.  Added to this is the impact that the carbon tax and subsequent increased fuel costs have had on those same families, which has lead to a sharp decline in the living standards of working people and has increased poverty."

"Once more it is the poorest and most vulnerable in our society who will be hit hardest by this new tax.  Just as with the Carbon Tax, what this new fuel hike will mean is that people who are living in poverty  and struggling to make ends meet already will end up using less fuel to heat their homes.  The end result of this is increased fuel poverty and the inevitable  increase in cold related illnesses and deaths."

"Yet again, what passes for a government in Leinster House  show they care nothing about the misery and suffering they are inflicting on increasing numbers of working class families.  Their only concern is with protecting the interests of their banking and developer cronies and maintaining the lavish lifestyles of the wealthy political and business elite." 

Casey concluded:  "Its long past time for working class communities the length and breadth of this state to come together and organise  effectively to drive these self serving politicians from power.  More importantly  however we need to dismantle and destroy their capitalist system which is based on greed before need and is responsible for the continued and increasing exploitation of workers, the ongoing drive to slash and privatise hospital services and the neglect of the most vulnerable in society who need assistance and care."

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