ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Letter from Minister of 23 June 2011 re Social Housing Development Programme 2011/12

From: Michael Sands, Deputy Director of Housing

John Simmons
Committee Clerk
Social Development Committee
Room 412
Parliament Buildings
Belfast
BT4 3XX
2nd Floor
Lighthouse Building
1 Cromac Place
Gasworks Business Park
Ormeau Road
BELFAST
BT7 2JB

Telephone: 028 9082 9346
Facsimile: 028 9082 9324 E-Mail:
jim.wilkinson@dsdni.gov.uk


June 2011

Dear John

Please find attached a briefing paper on the background to the NIHE Review at Annex A. This paper provides background information for the Social Development Committee members for the meeting due to be held on Thursday 16th June 2011.

If you require any further information please let me know.

Yours sincerely

MICHAEL SANDS
Deputy Director of Housing

NIHE REVIEW

Annex A

The Housing Executive is a major employer in Northern Ireland with around 3,300 staff and has a proven track record over the past 40 years for improving social housing stock. It has evolved into an organisation with two roles; one as a social housing landlord and the other as a deliverer and provider of non-landlord housing activities including: the administration of Housing Benefit, Supporting People and Neighbourhood Renewal programmes, the Warm Homes Scheme and management and administration of the Social Housing Development Programme. In recent times there have been a number of published reports - Varney, Ford, Savills and Tribal which recommended that it was time to review the structures in provision of social housing to reflect the changing environment and funding issues, e.g. the ongoing shortfall in capital receipts for improvements in the NIHE housing stock.

As all Non Departmental Public Bodies are normally subject to review on a regular basis, this review was timely. Bearing in mind all these important considerations, it was requested that the Department go beyond a Quinquennial Review and undertake a fundamental strategic review of the NIHE within the context of delivery of housing policy and the current economic conditions. This fundamental Review was necessary to try and build on the good work that the NIHE has done over the past 40 years and position it for dealing with the next 20 years.

THE TERMS OF REFERENCE

“The Review will examine the housing and all functions of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in detail, providing a comprehensive assessment of their contribution to housing and other Departmental and Government policy objectives. This will take account of other organisational structures in the housing policy sector and make recommendations about remit, role and responsibility to achieve best results. It will consider reports into Housing in Northern Ireland produced over the last three years. The Review will also examine the efficiency and effectiveness of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s operations, including the appropriateness of existing structures. It will identify opportunities and make recommendations for improving performance and delivery of housing policy and objectives.”

BACKGROUND

On 11 October 2010, the then Minister Alex Attwood. announced to the Assembly that a review of the NI Housing Executive (NIHE) was being commissioned. As the NIHE had been in existence for almost 40years, it was essential that this review was undertaken by personnel that had the required skills and knowledge of conducting large scale organisational reviews. A tender was issued to undertake this consultancy and was subsequently awarded to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who were appointed late in December 2010 and began work in early January 2011.

In taking cognisance of the valuable and wide ranging work that the NIHE has undertaken over the past 40 years, the NIHE Review team has adopted a very inclusive and collaborative approach to seek views from a wide variety of key stakeholders. As part of this process, PwC met with a number of the key stakeholders such as: NIHE Chairman and Senior Management Team, Departmental Senior Management, and the Social Development Committee and other interested stakeholders e.g. NI Federation of Housing Association (NIFHA), Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), Strategic Investment Board (SIB), Department of Finance & Personnel (DFP), Department for Regional Development (DRD), Social Security Agency (SSA) and NI Housing Council. Engagement with the extensive list of Key Stakeholders was a process which continued throughout the period of the NIHE Review. The Deputy Director of Housing also issued a note to all MLAs and in particular, Political Party Housing Spokespersons to seek their views. Further to this invitation, PwC consulted with each of the housing spokespersons of the major political parties to ensure that any recommendations arising from their work would provide the basis for broad political consensus.

PwC has considered a wide variety of possible future service delivery options taking into account the views of key stakeholders and drawing on accepted good practice nationally and internationally.

To assist with the Review, a series of workshop involving senior personnel from PWC, NIHE and the Department took place in February and March. This was a very valuable exercise and was used as a vehicle to discuss and agree a range of possible options for consideration and analysis. The outcomes of the workshops and the data supplied by NIHE have been fed directly into the final considerations.

UPDATE ON PROGRESS:

The final report on the Review which sets out an appraisal of options for future service delivery will be available to the Committee shortly.

This is an independent report by the consultants.

NEXT STEPS

To inform the Minister’s final decisions on the way forward, he has decided that the report, its recommendations and any issues identified are given full consideration by all those key stakeholders with an interest in the Housing Sector,

To facilitate this he has commissioned the report’s authors to take forward a series of engagement meetings on their findings and recommendations. A key meeting for the consultants will be with the Committee.

The Minister will bring forward his proposals, taking account of the comments expressed, in due course.

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