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19 May 2022

Harkin: Council should use unspent £3m Covid reserve for Hardship Emergency Fund

Shaun Harkin

People Before Profit Councillor, Shaun Harkin, calls for Council to use the £3 million unspent in the Covid fund reserve to help families in the district

People Before Profit Councillor, Shaun Harkin, calls for Council to use the £3 million unspent in the Covid fund reserve to help families in the district as the cost of living continues to rise.

The Foyleside councillor is also calling for energy companies to match whatever funding Council puts towards the Hardship fund to help families with rising energy costs.

Mr Harkin said: "The response from government, business and regulators to the cost of living crisis has been criminally inadequate. 

"More can be done and must be done to protect people across our communities from exorbitant energy prices and household costs and the price hikes that keep on coming. 

"Pre-pandemic research documented 30 percent of people in Derry and Strabane District living below the poverty line. 

"There is no doubt the pandemic, rising costs and new tax burdens are deepening poverty faced by many and pushing more households into financial hardship. 

"We are calling on the Council to initiate a Hardship Emergency Fund using almost £3 million in unspent Covid funding that's being held in reserve for a rainy day. The rainy day is here. 

"We are also calling for the Department for Communities and energy companies to match fund the Council's contribution to the Hardship Fund. 

"A £3 million, £6 million or £9 million hardship fund would allow the Council to take the lead in assisting as many individuals and households across the District as much as possible. 

"Workers are being told they must accept real terms wage cuts. Universal Credit has been cut. But prices, along with profits for many big companies, are going up.

"Stormont found money for all sorts of handouts to elites and the politically connected throughout the pandemic - where is the urgency now to take radical action to protect workers, the vulnerable and struggling organisations? 

"It's widely accepted Stormont has not done enough to protect people from financial hardship while there's been a major transfer of wealth to the super-rich and corporations.

"There is an onus on Council to take whatever action it can to protect people here and press for decisive action from government, corporations and regulators. 

"We are calling for everyone to support the demand for a Council-led Emergency Hardship Fund and to back calls for real above inflation pay increases, price controls and a new Wealth Tax on the super-rich and corporations."

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