UK government plans to help with spiraling energy costs are not providing the support needed by households and businesses in Northern Ireland, Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy has said.
An energy price cap has been announced for households in Northern Ireland from November, while home heating oil customers will receive a one-time payment of £100.
The Government has also said that businesses in Northern Ireland will benefit from an energy cap equivalent to the scheme announced for the rest of the UK.
Sinn Fein minister Murphy said there had been no clarity given to businesses on when they would receive assistance with invoices.
However, DUP MP Sammy Wilson welcomed the announcement, saying his party has been working to ensure the people of Northern Ireland get help this winter.
Murphy said: “This doesn’t go far enough given the huge increase in energy costs in the last year.
“Seventy per cent of households using home heating oil will find the news that they will get just £100 of support for their fuel bills this winter insufficient.
“It is disappointing that there has not been an update on when households here can expect to receive their £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme payment.
“The promise of equivalent support without the underlying details does not reassure companies.
“Most companies are anxious to find out how they will survive the winter.”
Murphy said the absence of an executive at Stormont is negatively affecting people and businesses in Northern Ireland.
Stormont’s power-sharing institutions were collapsed earlier this year by the DUP in protest against the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.
Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill added: “It’s too little, too late.
“We are in a scenario where we don’t have a functioning executive, we have ads, and we still don’t have a penny in the pockets of the people in the north.”
But Wilson said: “Over the last few weeks, Sinn Fein and others have broken records telling Northern Ireland homeowners they won’t qualify for energy supports because the executive isn’t fully operational.
“This has been shown to be a lie.
“While Sinn Fein’s Finance Minister was complaining, the DUP has been at work.
“Our engagement with government both in Westminster and through the Stormont departments ensures that Northern Ireland households are helped this winter.”
Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg announced on Wednesday the energy price cap for households in Northern Ireland.
It said households in Northern Ireland will be offered the same level of support on gas and electricity bills as an equivalent scheme in Britain.
The announcement follows the launch of the Energy Price Guarantee in the rest of the UK, under which a typical household will pay an average of £2,500 a year on their energy bill for the next two years from 1 October.
The scheme limits the price that providers can charge customers for units of gas and electricity.
The government said the scheme will work through electricity and gas bills.
Energy providers will reduce bills with a unit price reduction of up to 17p/kWh for electricity and 4.2p/kWh for gas.
It has also said it will provide an additional £100 payment to households that cannot be supported through the price cap, such as those using heating oil at home.
The government said homeowners do not need to take any action to receive the support.
He said the scheme will come into effect from November but will ensure households receive the same general benefit as those in Britain by rolling back support from October bills to November bills.
Northern Ireland is in a separate energy market from the rest of the UK, but the government has stressed that people living in the region will receive “equivalent support”.
Households will also receive a £400 discount on bills through the Northern Ireland Energy Bill Support Scheme, although no timeframe has yet been given as to when this will be available.
The Government has also announced plans to introduce a cap on wholesale energy bills for businesses in the rest of the UK from October, and said a parallel scheme will be set up in Northern Ireland.
The plan will see energy bills for businesses cut by around half their expected level this winter, although it is not yet clear when this relief will be available to businesses in Northern Ireland.
Hospitals, schools, charities and other settings such as community halls and churches will also be helped.
But hospitality bosses said businesses in Northern Ireland need “urgent clarity” on how the business aid scheme will operate in the region.
Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: “It is simply unacceptable that Northern Ireland businesses do not have any details on how the support will be provided.
“We urgently need clarity on how these measures will be carried out.”
NI Retail Executive Director Glyn Roberts said, “Given the overwhelming financial difficulties local independent retailers and other small businesses are experiencing, it is highly disappointing that more clarity on the energy cap has not been provided.
“We have not been given timelines on how the energy cap will apply to Northern Ireland business owners.
“This is unacceptable and our members deserve better.”