The upside of downturn

It’s an ill wind that has boosted consumer spending north and south, as reported by the Irish Times and the Belfast Telegraph – although watch out for the time-lag in trend reporting.

The good piece of digging in the Belfast Telegraph reveals more good news of the fall in fuel charges – reflecting the current global position in a notoriously volatile sector and the impact of shrinkage all round. No doubt it’s an incomplete and changing story. Let’s hope the local media keeps monitoring the situation and business and other bloggers chip in with refinements and corrections when necessary.

One big question: how do these price falls affect the Executive’s long awaited fuel poverty package? Does anybody know, even Nigel Dodds and his officials? The politics flagged up in Slugger last month are byzantine. And the alleged need for legislation is creating further delay, as discussed over at
NI crunchtalk.

Quotes from the Bel Tel story.

“A straw poll of local distributors, published today in the Belfast Telegraph, shows that some companies have knocked 27% (or £110) off their prices in the last 12 weeks, to bring 900 litres down to under £300. It also emerged that home heating oil costs less here than anywhere else in the UK or Ireland.

NIE Energy also offered some cheer by implementing price cuts of 10.8%, while Phoenix Gas has reduced its tariffs by 22.1%, bringing a little relief to beleaguered families across the province.”

Meanwhile in the political stratosphere Alistair Darling has been performing a dance of the seven veils about the next stage of the UK government’s financial strategy in today’s FT. Is there to be a second bank recapitalisation? ( shudder!); a guarantee scheme ; a “ bad bank” for the toxic assets ( how many?; more “flexible” minimum capital limits for the banks?

Does this thinking aloud presage an admission that the current bail-out “ to rescue the banks” has actually failed or was always intended to be Stage One leading to a second tranche to kick-start the reopening of wholesale funding markets? And when will we see some action? Business’s frustration must be increasing to boiling point – or are local companies merely fatalistic about strategies they can hardly hope to influence?

  • fair_deal

    “One big question: how do these price falls affect the Executive’s long awaited fuel poverty package? Does anybody know, even Nigel Dodds and his officials?”

    They don’t. A basic fact check would have shown that the Executive had full knowledge of the proposed price decreases when the fuel poverty package was discussed and agreed.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7779037.stm

  • Brian Walker

    Not sure that’s quite what the link says. And anyway, should not payments be sensitive to price levels? And why the slightly grumpy tone, fair deal?

  • Carson’s Cat

    Brian,
    Given that prices have only dropped back to what they were about 6-8 months ago are you suggesting that there was no fuel poverty in NI back then?

    The price rises at the end of last year may have made the payments more necessary, but the resulting fall has hardly made them unnecessary. Fuel poverty has several elements to it, and energy prices is one element – the other being energy efficiency and the third being incomes. NI still has lower incomes than other areas of the UK so will still face problems.

    I’d be as “grumpy” as F_D also given your use of the phrase:

    “One big question: how do these price falls affect the Executive’s long awaited fuel poverty package? Does anybody know, even Nigel Dodds and his officials?”

    What makes it such a big question? Does anyone know – well it would appear anyone who took the time to think about it does. Clearly Nigel Dodds and his officials did and do know. It might appear that the only person who doesn’t know is yourself and perhaps we should ask what motivated you to invent this supposedly huge question…..

    Surely crap commentary is allowed to annoy us is it not?

    Mind you – everything would not doubt have been fine if St Margaret of Ritchie was getting the glory for it….

  • fair_deal

    “Not sure that’s quite what the link says.”

    Then here are all the other relvant stories:
    Announcement of a review
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7744907.stm
    Announcement of cuts being likely
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7767088.stm
    SDLP leak (as above)
    Formal ammouncement of tariff changes (supposed to coincide with Exec annoucement but spiked by SDLP leaks)
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7782531.stm

    “And anyway, should not payments be sensitive to price levels?”

    Eyes roll. The new tariffs apply to energy used from January. The electricity and gas used in December will be charged at the peak prices. A good chunk of people will get the bill for their December usage in the coming days and weeks. Thus a payment arriving in the coming days and weeks will be timely.

    “And why the slightly grumpy tone, fair deal?”

    Lazy thinking usually gets my goat and this thread had it in spades