Ulster Unionist Councillor Richard Holmes has said that the cuts to RHI payments rushed through Parliament last month were a step too far and has warned that they have left many of the genuine applicants facing serious financial hardship.
He was speaking after he and UUP Leader Robin Swann MLA met with a local East Londonderry poultry farmer who has been treated grossly unfairly by the latest tariff reductions.
Richard Holmes said:
“The RHI debacle was the biggest financial scandal in Northern Ireland. Every aspect of the scheme, from its original proposal, to its implementation and now to the cack-handed efforts to reign in the costs have been chaotic.
“The reality is many of the applicants only entered the scheme after they were actively and repeatedly encouraged to do so by Northern Ireland Executive Departments.
“I’ve heard it said on several occasions when canvassing in recent weeks across the Bann DEA that some applicants only decided to apply after Arlene Foster, as the then Business Minister, personally wrote to banks reassuring them of the supposed rock-solid guarantees of the scheme.
“Now Mrs Foster’s rock-solid commitments have turned to sand. Those commitments proved worthless whenever payments were slashed in 2017. The problem now, however, is in their rush to cut even more costs Westminster has gone a step too far. Instead of just making sure the scheme was affordable and represented value for taxpayers’ money, the latest reductions are punishing totally genuine claimants.”
Ulster Unionist Party Leader, Robin Swann MLA said:
“I’ve been engaging extensively with RHI claimants over recent months. There is a palpable sense of betrayal and many now fear for their future ability to keep trading. It will very quickly start to cripple applicants’ finances and some are facing ruin.
“I don’t believe the Department for the Economy at all properly considered the costs for the boilers, such as servicing and high bank fees. That is why we were opposed to the new proposed reduced tariffs.
“Yet the debate in the House of Commons last month was rushed through and not a single MP from Northern Ireland opposed the latest cuts. The reality is the UK Government only really faced a problem when it went to the House of Lords where Ulster Unionist Party Chairman Lord Empey led the opposition and debate.
“The problem still remains however that the wider cuts to payments were still implemented on April 1st. Genuine claimants are being unjustly penalised and are paying the price for the mistakes of others.”