Jim Allister asked Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland, for an update on negotiations between the Housing Executive and their contractors related to the £18m overcharging alleged by the Minister. Mr McCausland was however reluctant to provide an update as negotiations are still ongoing and any open discussion might compromise the delicate proceedings. He did confirm that “the Housing Executive's board has assured me that it wants this resolved as soon as possible and that it will continue to strive towards that outcome”.
Megan Fearon then asked the Minister about any plans to enhance minimum fitness standards for housing across all tenures. The current standard requires that all dwellings are structurally sound, free from serious disrepair and have adequate provision for lighting, heating, bathing and food preparation. Mr McCausland revealed that his officials “are examining options to identify how the current minimum standard for housing across all tenures can be most effectively enhanced” and that he expects to launch a related consultation in the coming year. The Minister highlighted the launch of the double-glazing programme when he came to the Department as an example of his commitment to raising housing standards.
During Topical Questions the Minister was asked about his plans regarding Welfare Reform. Mr McCausland was keen to highlight the need to move quickly on the issue of Welfare Reform before we are imposed with a £1bn penalty from Westminster – money that will not be available for health, education, deprivation etc. The Minister also addressed questions on paramilitary murals on the Giro d’Italia route and the transfer of urban regeneration powers to councils.