Gas price criticised

THE decision by gas company Firmus to impose a price hike of almost 30% has been slammed by local politicians, businesses and trade unions.

The natural gas supplier announced the rise last week.

SDLP MLA Dolores described the price rise as “outrageous”.

“The overall cost of energy is skyrocketing,” she said.

“It looks like it will be another very severe winter this year, so I’m very wary of this.

“When people bought into this, they did so in good faith. Despite the promises, they are not going to make any savings.”

She added: “This price hike is astronomical and, quite frankly, outrageous. People will feel bitter and betrayed by it.”

Sinn Fein councillor Johnny McGibbon said the rise would have a devastating impact on both commercial and home users.

He said: “The news of a steep rise in cost of what was advertised as a cheap energy source, will increase the number of families suffering fuel poverty this winter and will devastate the arranged budgets of many businesses, both large and small.“

Cllr McGibbon rubbished the Firmus claim that they have kept their promise and that their product is still a much cheaper energy option than oil or electricity.

He added that as Firmus have a supply monopoly in the area and had sold their product on the promise of major savings the announced price rise was totally unethical.

The councillor called on customers to make their feelings known through the Consumer Council.

He said: “Useful guidelines on saving money through efficiency measures are available for businesses and home owners and can be obtained by telephoning 9067 2488 or by accessing the web site at www.consumercouncil.org.uk.”

Charles Gardiner, chair of Lurgan Chamber of Commerce, said: “Getting the natural gas in was a good idea, but not if the prices are going to rise beyond everything else.

“This makes it look like it’s actually going to be the more expensive option.”

Craigavon Trades Council also hit out at the rise.

A spokesperson said: “While this is not a direct industrial matter, it is of great concern to trade unionists in Craigavon who continue to experience the erosion of their disposable income with yet another price hike well above inflation.

“Our local politicians need to review, as a matter of urgency, their attitude to the ‘Green New Deal’ as advocated by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and many others, and seriously address the issue of our reliance on fossil fuels as well as the continuing slide towards fuel poverty.”

Mark Prentice, Managing Director of Firmus, described the price rise as “regrettable”.

“Since we first started supplying natural gas to homes and businesses in 2005, we have worked hard at keeping our prices as low as possible,” he said.

“We were one of the very few natural gas companies in the United Kingdom not to increase our prices over the last 12 months.

“It is regrettable that we cannot continue to buy gas on the wholesale market at the same levels as last year and as a result have had to increase gas prices.

“That said, natural gas continues to be the lowest cost fuel for homes across Northern Ireland,” he added.