Page last updated at 12:04 GMT, Thursday, 10 January 2013

Social Development Committee

The social development minister should have made his announcement to dismantle the Housing Executive to the Assembly, the Social Development Committee chairman said on 10 January 2013.

Alex Maskey of Sinn Fein was speaking during the first meeting of the committee since Nelson McCausland confirmed he was to scrap the body which has existed for 40 years.

"For the life of me, I just can't understand why people didn't see why it wouldn't be better to be making an open and transparent announcement in the Assembly, " Mr Maskey said.

"It's a big issue, whether you like it or not. No matter what your view on it is."

He added that the reforms should be viewed positively.

Mr Maskey's comments were reiterated by the Alliance Party's Judith Cochrane who said she would have welcomed the opportunity to ask questions.

Mr McCausland previously said the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) was no longer sustainable or made the best use of public money.

He had proposed major reforms, including a new regional housing body.

NIHE is one of Northern Ireland's largest public bodies, with almost 3,000 staff and 90,000 homes.

Mr Maskey said Mr McCausland had written to the committee to inform it of his intention to make a statement in the Assembly.

Committee members also discussed the £15m in savings that the NIHE said had been realised in its replacement window programme.

The Programme for Government set a target to provide double-glazed windows in all NIHE homes by 2015.

The committee discussed the specification of hinges used because Mr McCausland had raised concerns that value for money was not being achieved.

Social development department official Michael Sands said the minister had asked NIHE to research the hinges they used and it was discovered that they were "much higher than the industry standard other domestic properties used".

Gerry Flynn from the NIHE said the expected savings of £15m would be brought about through a combination of factors but were largely due to the cessation of redecoration.

He explained that the savings would be used in other priority areas such as kitchen repairs and heating.

Social development committee membership


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