By Matthew Leslie
“We could be sleepwalking into a situation worse than Covid if fuel prices are not slashed,” warns Cllr Sheamus Greene.
The Fermanagh Councillor was speaking following figures released by the Consumer Council in relation to both petrol and heating oil prices in the North of Ireland.
Petrol has dropped from 189.9p per litre to 189.4p over this past week while heating oil went from £873.76 to £839.60 to fill a 900 litre tank.
However, despite the drop in price, Cllr Greene says the new rates are still burning a hole through people’s pockets and bank balances – especially when compared to this time last year when petrol was 129.4p per litre and a 900 litre heating oil tank could be filled up for only £375.52.
Cllr Greene stated that the recent price falls were just a mere drop in the ocean and if prices are not dramatically slashed by the time winter comes around, he “dreads to think” of the consequences of what may happen.
“It is a drop in the ocean when compared to what the prices were this time last year,” he said.
“It’s almost impossible for families to heat their homes or to travel to work and do the generally basic things that they have to do.
“I just dread to think that when it comes to winter. This is the middle of summer and we’re talking about petrol being in the mid to late 180p per litre.
“Some people are celebrating the fact that there’s been a minor drop in price this week. But once we go back into the autumn and winter months, I would not be surprised if we see those prices go back up.
“We had (US) President Biden there meeting with the Saudi Arabia ruler (Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman) with Biden being told that Saudi Arabia were not going to increase (oil) production that would have prevented shortages.
“That means that the big companies – and to a degree, the world governments – are raking the money in with the extra tax and nobody wants to be the one to put a stop to this.
“Yet it is the people who will be the ones to suffer. People are at their wits end at the minute and my greatest fear is that thousands are going to die through the cold – especially among older people – in the winter through lack of heating.
“All of this leads back to the energy prices. Because the price of production has gone, the price of food has gone up.
“It’s just shocking and to be honest, very few of the governments – be it Ireland, Britain or across Europe – are doing anything about it. The amount of tax that the Government is taking in is almost double the amount they were raking in last year.
“If they cut the taxes on fuel in half, they would still be able to take in the same amount as they did last year. It’s inexcusable as far as I’m concerned what the national Governments are doing to people.
“In my opinion, these high prices are really about paying for the money that was spent to deal with the Covid lockdown.
“Yes there’s been a drop but compared to last year’s price to fill up a 900 litre tank, today’s ‘reduced’ price is still a shocking figure to pay out.”
Cllr Greene has warned that pensioners will be very vulnerable if the prices are not at least halved by winter with the current heating oil rates likely to eat up the vast bulk of their monthly state pension.
He added: “Remember that people in this part of the world are pensioners on the lowest pension rate right across Europe. Our pensioners get an absolute pittance compared to other countries.
“How a pensioner or those on low incomes – and I include working families in that and not only people on benefits – is going to pay for that type of fuel I do not know. Yes there’s been a cut in heating oil prices but, as with petrol, it’s still a drop in the ocean.
“When you look at it, how long would that heat your house in the winter months? It’s just shocking a people are sleepwalking into at least a worse scenario than Covid with people genuinely dying of the cold.
“This part of the world is supposedly a First-World country, not a Third World one. We’re supposed to be in one of the richest countries and this is what we are left with – people not being physically able to heat their own houses.
“The Governments – both in London and Dublin – are happy to take in the tax revenue that they’re getting. They don’t care about the people. It is actually scary to think of what might be waiting down the line for people who are struggling to make ends meet right now.”
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