Sinn Féin TD for Dublin South West Seán Crowe has said that a Sinn Féin Bill to give the Minister for the Environment the power to ban utilities disconnections during the Winter months was necessary to ensure that families were not potentially restricted to freezing homes and that support from Government during COVID should not end with the pandemic payment or a cut in the VAT rate, but with meaningful backing in all areas of life.
Teachta Crowe said:
“Sinn Féin welcomed the CRU’s announcement of a moratorium on disconnections of utilities such as electricity and gas until December 1st in line with the current Level 5 restrictions, but we feel this does not go far enough.
“The financial hardship faced by thousands of people as a result of the pandemic and resulting restrictions, will not end on December 1st. They will be felt for months and years to come.
“With this in mind, Sinn Féin have brought forward a Bill that gives the Minister for the Environment the power to direct the CRU to introduce a winter disconnection ban that would run over the winter months.
“Consumers are facing significantly higher energy bills this Winter as a result of the price hikes from providers, the PSO levy increase and the 30% hike in the Carbon Tax.
“This all comes at a time when we have hundreds of thousands of people unemployed due to the pandemic, and their financial pressures do not finish on December 1st when the current moratorium will lapse.
“Last year, 5,008 electricity and 2,424 gas customers were cut off for non-payment.
“We can’t have a situation where those facing financial difficulty have their gas or electricity cut off in the middle of winter for failure to meet their bills on time. We cannot stand by while families cannot afford to heat their homes, especially in a case where a lockdown means there is no alternative but to stay in a freezing house.
“Our Bill would give these households breathing space and allow them come to a payment arrangement with their supplier, while ensuring their lights and heat are not cut off over the cold winter months.
“Support from Government during COVID does not end with the pandemic payment or a cut in the VAT rate. There must be meaningful backing in all areas of life.”