All households in Northern Ireland are to receive a £200 payment to help with spiralling energy costs, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced in his autumn statement.
The payment has doubled from the £100 previously announced by the Government, which was only for home heating oil customers.
Mr Hunt also said that the Northern Ireland Executive would receive an additional £650 million in additional funding over two years to boost public services.
He also said that £2 million of funding would be made available for a trade and investment event to take place in Northern Ireland next year.
The Government had previously announced the £100 payment to home heating oil customers to help with energy costs, but it was widely criticised by Northern Ireland political parties as not generous enough.
Mr Hunt has now confirmed that payment will double and will be paid to all households.
A Treasury statement said the £200 payment would “apply to all households in Northern Ireland in recognition of the prevalence of alternative fuel usage in Northern Ireland”.
Around two-thirds of homes in Northern Ireland are heated by oil, a much higher proportion than the rest of the UK.
The £200 payment, which will be made as a credit to electricity accounts, is in addition to the separate £400 energy support payments which had also previously been announced.
No details have been released so far on when either payment will be made.
Mr Hunt said the trade and investment event he had announced in his autumn statement would “showcase Northern Ireland as an attractive and vibrant place to do business and help drive new international mobile investment into its economy”.
The Chancellor also said funding for the UK’s nine Catapult innovation centres would increase by 35%, including the centre in Northern Ireland.
Mr Hunt said: “The UK Government is funding the Northern Ireland Executive to increase pensions and benefits in line with inflation next year.
“We are also providing a further £650 million in additional funding to the Northern Ireland Executive over the next two years, to support households, businesses and public services through the challenging times ahead.
“Difficult decisions have been made, but we are ensuring the most vulnerable people are protected in the face of the rising cost of living.
“In the absence of devolved government, we will continue to work closely with our colleagues in the Department of Finance to ensure this money reaches those who need it most, but I would reiterate calls for this support to be delivered alongside a functioning executive.”
Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Today’s measures will provide relief for ongoing cost-of-living pressures affecting citizens across Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.
“The difficult but necessary decisions will restore confidence and economic stability, balance the books, and achieve long-term sustainable growth.
“The fiscal and economic challenges faced by the UK are further compounded in Northern Ireland, with the current lack of locally accountable leadership.
“Despite receiving the biggest funding allocation since devolution began, decisions made by outgoing ministers have left a £660 million black hole in the Executive’s finances.
“In the absence of a functioning executive, my department remains committed to closing the gap in public funding and protecting the ongoing delivery of vital frontline services, but this is an unsustainable situation that I want to see resolved by the restoration of local leadership as soon as possible.”
The Northern Ireland powersharing Executive is currently suspended as part of a DUP protest against the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.
Reacting to the autumn statement, former Stormont finance minister Conor Murphy said: “Now we have a budget from Jeremy Hunt which is going to bring us deeper into recession.
“While there are some parts of this that will be welcomed by some people, I think the overall picture over the last decade and beyond that is a very bleak outlook for ordinary working people.
“Had I been in the Department of Finance today, we would have spent the afternoon trying to check the detail as to what these things actually mean in terms of addition to our budget here in the north.”
The Sinn Fein MLA said there was still no clarity as to when energy support payments would be made.
He added: “While any support for households is to be welcomed, the certainty over timeframe is not there.”
DUP MP Ian Paisley said: “I recognise that the Government has listened and revised their initial £100 payment for oil users by increasing it to £200 and making it available to all households.
“This is imperfect but at least there is movement.
“We now need a clear timetable for this rollout and the £400 electricity payment.”
Mr Paisley said he was disappointed that “serious action on childcare had been overlooked”.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe