Levers to alleviate cost of living crisis are in London – DUP leader

The levers to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis lie in London, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has insisted.

Speaking ahead of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement, Sir Jeffrey said the period ahead is going to be challenging – with taxes likely to be going up.

He also stood by his party’s refusal to reenter the Stormont Executive, saying Northern Ireland facees financial challenges with or without local ministers in post.

“Our MPs will be in their seats (on Thursday) and have already been pressing the government to ensure our hospitals and schools are properly funded and that working families get the help they need, whether that is through tax-free childcare or energy support,” he wrote in a letter to party supporters.

Sir Jeffrey said the Northern Ireland Fiscal Council has confirmed a £660 million black hole in public finances.

“Sinn Fein would have us believe that if there was an Executive in place all our public services would be fixed and energy bills reduced,” he said.

“The truth that Sinn Fein ignore is that when the Executive was in office it was Sinn Fein who failed miserably to get agreement on a budget.

“Conor Murphy lectures about our public finances as if he is a spectator, yet he was the finance minister who failed to secure agreement for a budget.

“It was Sinn Fein’s way or no way and all the other parties urged him to revisit his proposals but like his predecessor he did not get the budget business done.”

Sir Jeffrey added: “Even if the Northern Ireland Executive was to be re-formed tomorrow the financial challenges faced are significant. It will be the United Kingdom government that have the levers and controls of expenditure and will determine our level of spending locally.

“Equally the real levers to help in this cost-of-living squeeze rest in Westminster.”

Sir Jeffrey also urged the UK government to “get on with” delivering the £400 energy support payment.

“Help is also needed for the motorist and greater focus on whether energy customers are being exploited at this time,” he said.

“We support the extension of a windfall tax on the energy companies that are making billions off the increase in wholesale energy prices.”

The DUP said it will not reenter devolved government in Northern Ireland without action from the UK government over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Sir Jeffrey said the protocol is adding to the cost of living in Northern Ireland.

“All across Northern Ireland, unionists are determined to see this situation redressed and the protocol replaced with arrangements that restore our place fully within the United Kingdom,” he said.

“We will not tolerate internal borders within our own country.

“The government must continue to focus on getting the Protocol arrangements replaced by measures that unionists can support and that will protect our place in the UK Internal Market.

“This will enable us to restore Stormont on a solid foundation. Our determined message is getting through and we will persevere knowing that it will be worth the effort.”