By Daniel Hill
COUNCILLOR John Trainor has labeled the 35.5% gas tariff increase announced by Firmus energy, which is due to be implemented this October, as a “selfish move for such a large company as Firmus energy at a time when families are facing a multitude of economic hardships, not the least of which caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Expressing his disdain for the move by Firmus to increase gas tariff prices in the area, Councillor Trainor stated that “the 35.5 % tariff increase price would have a seriously detrimental impact for families living in the Newry, Mourne and Down District area.
“"The 35.15% increase on gas tariffs that has been announced by Firmus Energy is going to have an extremely detrimental impact on families living in the Newry, Mourne and Down District area.
"To be quite frank I think it is selfish for a large company such as Firmus energy to have introduced such a substantially large increase in tariff prices at time such as this when so many families are facing economic hardship due to a multitude of reasons such as the ending of the furlough scheme and the twenty pound reduction in universal credit recently brought forward by the Tory Party and Rishi Sunak. People are already struggling and they did not need this on top of everything else.
Councillor Trainor is of the belief that the adverse effect that the increase in tariff prices is going to have on families living in Newry, Mourne and Down is only going to be further compounded by the fact that we are now entering the coldest months of the year when central heating is needed the most.
“A 35.5 percent tariff increase in pricing is a very steep upscaling in pricing especially with winter approaching and this is the main issue we need to take into consideration. This increase has occurred just as we are about to enter the coldest months of the year when central heating is needed the most so this is going to exacerbate what is already a difficult challenge for families managing expenditure throughout the coldest period in the year.
"The people who are going to face the most difficulties with this increase will of course be the elderly with many older people throughout the winter still having to make the choice between heating and eating, which is completely unacceptable in this day and age.
"Firmus need to remember that there is a human element to business as well, people are not just numbers and this needs to be taken into consideration with every decision that is made by the firm. As we emerge from the pandemic, we need to ensure that companies such as Firmus are regulated in such a way that they cannot impose such step price hikes on their customers which will only serve to make their lives more difficult.”
It has been estimated that the increase in the Gas tariff price will mean that up to 55,000 of Firmus’s customers will face an increase of £182 per year if they have a typical credit meter with those with a prepayment gas meter potentially seeing their costs increase by around £173 per year.
Peter McClenaghan, who is the Director of Infrastructure and sustainability at the consumer council also levied his criticism against Firmus energies decision citing the same reasons as Councillor Trainor as to why the increase could not have come at a worse time for families already struggling to pay their bills.
“This firmus energy increase follows rises in electricity, grocery, and fuel costs and is particularly bad news for consumers in vulnerable situations as it will coincide with the end of the furlough scheme, the removal of the Universal Credit uplift, and the start of winter.”
“We encourage anyone who is struggling with their energy bills to contact their supplier directly for help and information.
The Consumer Council’s website has a number of free resources including Switch On: A Guide for Home Energy Users to help consumers be more energy efficient at home, get the best from their electricity or gas supply and save money.
Mr McClenaghan also reassured consumers that “The Consumer Council will continue to work with our energy companies and the Utility Regulator on the development of initiatives to help consumers experiencing payment difficulties.”
firmus energy customers in Greater Belfast and in the West network area will not be impacted by this tariff change.
Consumers can also get in touch with the Consumer Council for free independent advice by calling Freephone 0800 121 6022 or by emailing email@example.com.