SDLP Councillor Brian Heading has said continual increases in the cost of gas are unsustainable for consumers.  

He was speaking after the Utility Regulator warned that the price of gas bills could increase by 50 per cent in December.  

Councillor Heading said the heavy increase would particularly affect the worst off in society, following previous increases earlier this year.  

The Utility Regulator also warned electricity prices could increase by up to 20 per cent in January.  

“Customers are still adjusting to the previous hike in gas prices announced in October and many will be shocked to learn that prices are set to increase again so soon," Cllr Heading said.

"The majority of people in our society would struggle to meet the previously announced increase, so it’s beyond me how they are expected to meet the costs of a 50 per cent increase."

Cllr Heading added that this energy crisis could not have come at worse time for people here.

"Many people are still struggling to deal with the fallout from the Coronavirus pandemic, the furlough scheme has just ended placing many businesses and jobs at risk and the £20 cut to Universal Credit has hit many people hard" he continued. 

“The price of gas and electricity has continually risen and the situation shows no signs of slowing down. These forecasted rises will leave thousand across the North struggling to heat their homes, access hot water and keep the lights on.

"It will also affect schools and businesses who rely on gas. We need a long-term strategy from the DUP Economy Minister Gordon Lyons to address these issues. I would also appeal to Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to find the funding to protect people from fuel poverty this winter – we can’t expect people to keep meeting out-of-control rising costs."