DUP hands SF RHI cost cutting plan

First Minister Arlene Foster and Simon Hamilton
First Minister Arlene Foster and Simon Hamilton

Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has given Sinn Fein a two-staged plan to cut costs associated with the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, the BBC has reported.

First, it would reduce the tariffs paid to around 1,800 people who got into the scheme before November 2015. This would require an Assembly vote to change the tariffs, starting in April.

Secondly, there would be a public consultation on a longer-term solution. However the Department for the Economy accepts that any move on tariffs could face a legal challenge, the BBC said.

Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir said he has asked his “top economists, legal advisors and accountants” to assess the plan.

“I am pleased that, finally, the Minister for the Economy has submitted to my department a ‘plan’ to put right the RHI debacle,” he said.

“I have been asking for proposals to tackle the £85,000 daily loss to our budgets since my appointment.

“I regret that the Department didn’t come forward with this ‘plan’ either after the Comptroller and Auditor General report in July 2016 or the PwC report in October 2016. Sadly, it took the Spotlight exposé to spur the Department into action.

“I promised the public a politics-free, public purse-focused assessment of the proposals by Minister Hamilton — even though he has said they have been devised in collaboration with former economy minister Arlene Foster who acknowledges she is the architect of the RHI mess.

“I remain of the opinion that a temporary ‘sticking plaster’ solution is not the best way forward but will allow officials to now reach their own conclusion on that issue.

“I have therefore tasked my top economists, legal advisors and accountants to conduct a thorough and professional assessment of the proposals before reporting back to me with their recommendations.

“I have told them that they should apply themselves expeditiously to the task at hand. The operation of RHI has been botched, the solution must not be botched.” ENDS/CRÍOCH