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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 16:55 GMT
Reaction to NI quango cull
Stormont
The changes are part of the Review of Public Administration
The number of unelected quangos and public bodies in Northern Ireland are being cut, Secretary of State Peter Hain has announced.

Various organisations have been giving their reaction to the final stage of the Review of Public Administration, which will see the number of such bodies almost halved from 154 to 75.

BRIAN ROWNTREE, NORTHERN IRELAND HOUSING EXECUTIVE

"The decision to retain the Housing Executive as the strategic housing authority is undoubtedly good news," he said.

"It shows government's confidence in how we are delivering fair and impartial housing in a politically sensitive arena.

"The secretary of state's announcement acknowledges the political sensitivities that still exist around housing.

"We agree with the analysis that housing functions should only be considered for transfer once the new councils have bedded in.

"The new arrangements need to protect the progress that has been made in delivering fair housing.

"We are delivering quality frontline housing services while at the same time operating strategically at the regional level. This approach is endorsed in the announcement today."

He added: "The secretary of state has also signalled the intention to transfer a number of functions to councils in 2009.

"These functions align with the powers proposed for the new councils, eg: in the areas of regeneration, neighbourhood renewal and community planning."

WILLIAM McCREA, DUP

Questions need answered, William Mccrea says

"The DUP very much supports the idea of cutting the number of unaccountable public bodies and agencies.

"However, the secretary of state's announcement today conjures up a number of serious questions.

"Whilst financial savings should be paramount, there is no clear indication as to how much money can be saved for the local taxpayer.

"There is a lot of talk in the statement about transferring functions from one quango to another or to a new amalgamated entity.

"Merely transferring one quango lock, stock and barrel is insufficient. A real and meaningful reorganisation process must result in serious savings."

JOHN COREY, NIPSA

The general secretary of the NI public service union called for protection for staff and further consultation on the government's plans.

Mr Corey said the proposals affected thousands of civil and public service staff, and reiterated the union's demand for a "no compulsory redundancy" pledge from the government.

"Even though the number of quangos may be cut, the public services still have to be provided," Mr Corey said.

He singled out the Housing Executive move, saying it flew in the face of the government's own consultation document which, he claimed made clear there was no support for change to the body.

"Handing over any housing functions seriously damages the principle of a single housing authority for Northern Ireland and we will be challenging this change," he added.

DINEEN WALKER, NORTHERN IRELAND HOUSING COUNCIL

Ms Walker said she was "dismayed and disappointed" at the abolition of the housing council, which is an advisory body represented on each of Northern Ireland's 26 councils.

"This cross-party body, representing all parties, has served the people of all communities for 35 years through the midst of all of Northern Ireland's problems and through every form of administration," she said.

"It has provided a vital link between local people and housing policy decision-making."

DAVID FORD, ALLIANCE PARTY LEADER

David Ford believes there is 'no rhyme or reason' to plans

"There is nothing wrong with the objective of cutting back on unaccountable and over-bureaucratic bodies.

"However, there seems to be no rhyme and reason to the government's proposals for achieving this.

"Specifically, the government continues to talk about 'great savings', but is yet to produce a single business case to prove this point."

ARNOLD HATCH, NORTHERN IRELAND LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION

"It is clear that the secretary of state has delivered the first steps to create an impression of stronger local government; however, he has not gone far enough," he said.

"NILGA had anticipated that local government would play a primary role facilitating integrated service delivery and local accountability, but this has proved insubstantial.

"We have missed a golden opportunity for achieving democracy... Today's announcement does not equate to strong local government."

TOMMY GALLAGHER, SDLP

The party's local government spokesman said the plans to transfer sensitive services to super-councils were "fraught with political danger".

"It is dangerous in the extreme to even suggest returning powers of housing allocation at some point in the future, as we all know that sectarianism is alive and well in certain councils," he said.

"The super-council plan shows that the secretary of state knows very little of the way our divided society works.

"Proposals to transfer housing and planning powers with undue haste show he is prepared to risk our shared future for short-term political convenience."

ALEX MASKEY, SINN FEIN

Alex Maskey is concerned by housing issues

"While there is strong argument for councils to have a greater role in housing, it will be a long time before nationalists will trust unionists with powers of housing provision or allocation," he said.

The party's spokesman on the Review of Public Administration added: "The work of quangos should be under democratic control either through the assembly or local government.

"The challenge for people is to see the political institutions reinstated and strong local government built on the most stringent equality measures possible that deliver democratic accountability and an end to all forms of discrimination."

WILFRED MITCHELL, FEDERATION OF SMALL BUSINESSES NI

"We are delighted that the government has listened to our policy that the new local councils should take the lead role in local economic development in place of Invest Northern Ireland," he said.

"However, it was disappointing that Mr Hain did not make any announcement on the size, functions and number of the 11 government departments as we called for in our Eight Point Plan last week.

"This question of government departments cannot be divorced from the process of a broader review of public administration."

FRED COBAIN, ULSTER UNIONIST PARTY

No logic to move, UUP's Fred Cobain says

"Despite some under-investment the Housing Executive have done a good job for over 30 years."

He added: "I fail to see the logic of this move.

"It makes no sense for government to talk about setting up single strategic units to deal with education and health here as part of the Review of Public Administration and then propose splitting up the only existing strategic unit that deals with housing into seven parts.

"It is hard to see this move as anything other than a cynical cost cutting exercise which is being dressed up as fighting bureaucracy."




SEE ALSO:
NI housing body facing shake-up
21 Mar 06 |  Northern Ireland
Government to cut NI 'quangos'
20 Mar 06 |  Northern Ireland
'Year zero' move for NI funding
31 Jan 06 |  Northern Ireland
Major reform of local government
22 Nov 05 |  Northern Ireland
Sweet and sour reception for ministers
22 Nov 05 |  Northern Ireland
Sweeping changes to health and education
21 Nov 05 |  Northern Ireland



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