ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 16 February 2012

Venue: NICVA Offices, Belfast

The meeting began in closed session at 9.30am                     

1. Fuel Poverty Report

The Committee considered the fuel poverty draft report. 

The meeting ended in closed session at 9.35am

The meeting opened in public session at 9.35am.

Mark H Durkan declared an interest in the licensing trade at 9.36am

2. Apologies

Apologies were as indicated above.

3. Draft Minutes of Meeting 9 February 2012 

Agreed:  The minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 9 February 2012 were agreed.

4. Chairperson’s Business

The Chairperson advised Members that the intention was to have Officials from the Department to attend today’s meeting to explain the rationale for the withdrawal of Laganside Events Grants Scheme which provides funding to a range of arts and community groups. The Chairperson advised Members that the Department has indicated that no-one was available to attend today.   The Chairperson expressed disappointment on behalf of the Committee.   

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister to express Committees concerns as to how this matter was handled

The Committee considered correspondence from the Cathedral Quarter Steering Group and a list of the organisations who are recipients of the grant scheme which was provided by the Department.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to schedule a briefing from the Cathedral Quarter Steering Group at next week’s meeting.

The Chairperson advised Members that earlier in the week he received confirmation that Professor Harrington’s visit on the 6 March has been cancelled due to ill-health.

The Chairperson advised Members that he is unable to attend the CIH Northern Ireland Housing Awards 24 February 2012.

5. Matters Arising

There were no matters arising.

6. Empty Homes Strategy – Departmental Briefing

The following Department officials joined the meeting at 9.44am

Mr Jim Wilkinson, Director
Mr Philip Conlon, Housing Markets and Supply
Mr Colm McQuillan, Assistant Director of Strategic Partnerships

The officials briefed the Committee on the Empty Homes Strategy.

Members questioned the spread of areas considered by the Department to carry out the pilot scheme.

Mr Sammy Douglas joined the meeting at 9.57am

Members also questioned if any studies have been done to look into why areas that have a good range of amenities nearby, can also have a large amount of properties unoccupied.  Members suggested that a study of this issue could help find a predictor to indicate areas where this might happen in the future.

Mr Michael Copeland left the meeting at 10.14am

Members expressed concerns around the impact Welfare Reform could have on properties, in particular the cuts to Housing Benefit for 25 – 35 year olds which, could potentially lead to many single individuals being homeless.  Members questioned how the Department are considering this within its strategy and stressed that this should be treated as a priority.

Members suggested that the Department should look into areas that have a social need and a need for social housing.  Members asked if other areas with a greater housing need could be considered for a pilot scheme.

Members questioned what resources will be available to turn the pilot schemes into reality.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for the briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 10.21am.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to revisit this issue when the interim progress report of the pilots is available in early April.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to request information on the number of empty homes that still have housing benefit attached to them.

7. Mary Portas Report – Briefing by the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA)

The following representatives from NIIRTA joined the meeting at 10.22am: 

Mr Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive, NIIRTA
Mr Stephen Dunlop, Chairperson, NIIRTA
Mr Rowan Black, NIIRTA
Mr Richard Acheson, NIIRTA

The representatives briefed the Committee on the Mary Portas Report and Town Centre Regeneration.

Members held discussions around the challenges facing town centres including the impact online shopping is having on retailers.

Members supported the work being done by NIIRTA to help regenerate town centres.

Members agreed that a better joined up approach between government departments is needed to help town centres.  Members questioned if there is enough consultation with stakeholders and government departments in addressing the challenges.

Members highlighted the dangers out of town development has on town centres and agreed that a retail planning policy is needed to support town centres.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for their briefing.

The officials left the meeting at 11.20am.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department highlighting the previous Committee’s recommendations contained in its Town Centre Regeneration report and that the Department should revisit these as part of its development of an action plan to boost the performance of our high streets. The Committee also agreed to include NIIRTA’s recommendations.

7. Proposed Subordinate Legislation

The Jobseeker’s Allowance (Domestic Violence) (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 2012.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to defer consideration of the proposed Statutory Rule

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to clarify if it has consulted with domestic violence support groups.

8. Statutory Rules

The Licensing (Form of Licence) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR 2012/22 The Licensing (Form of Licence) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report has no objection to the rule”.

The Licensing (Register of Licenses) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR 2012/23 The Licensing (Register of Licenses) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report has no objection to the rule”.

The Licensing (Notice Relating To Age) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012.

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR 2012/24 The Licensing (Notice Relating To Age) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report has no objection to the rule”.

The Registration of Clubs (Notice Relating to Age) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR 2012/27 The Registration of Clubs (Notice Relating to Age) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report has no objection to the rule”.

The Registration of Clubs (Certificate of Registration) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012

Question put and agreed:

“That the Committee for Social Development has considered Statutory Rule SR 2012/26 The Registration of Clubs (Certificate of Registration) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012 and subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules’ Report has no objection to the rule”.

9. Correspondence

The Committee considered correspondence from CO3 requesting the opportunity to share evidence regarding leadership in voluntary and community organisations. 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to contact C03 advising that due to a very busy legislative programme the Committee is unable to accommodate this date.  The Committee also agreed for the Chairperson and Sammy Douglas to arrange a meeting next week with CO3.

The Committee noted correspondence from the Department providing the Committee with clarification on how the increase to Housing Executive rent for 2012/13 was calculated.

The Committee considered correspondence from the Department regarding issues raised by a member of the public about difficulties relating to the transfer of his bookmaking premises. 

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department to ask how and when these issues will be addressed and if there is any Primary legislation being proposed to tackle these issues.

The Committee considered correspondence from the Department responding to issues raised by the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development pertaining to housing targets in rural areas.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward this correspondence to the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development for their consideration.

The Committee considered correspondence from the Fuel Poverty Coalition clarifying their position on eradicating fuel poverty in Northern Ireland.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Fuel Poverty Coalition highlighting that Committee has taken a lead role on this issue and hopes to publish its report in the next few weeks and intends to engage with stakeholders after this on this issue.

The Committee considered correspondence from the ETI and Finance and Personnel Committees requesting further detail on the Green New Deal.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward this correspondence to the Department for a response.

Agreed: The Committee agreed for the remaining items of correspondence to be dealt with as per the proposed next steps in the correspondence Memo.

10. Forward Work Programme

Agreed:  The Committee agreed to note the draft Forward Work Programme.

11. Any Other Business

There was no other business.

Mr Sammy Douglas left the meeting at 11.40am

The Committee adjourned at 11.40am

The meeting opened in public session at 12.09pm.

12. Pensions Bill – Departmental Briefing

The following officials from the Department joined the meeting at 12.09pm

Mr Gerry McCann
Mr Seamus Cassidy
Ms Doreen Roy

The officials briefed the Committee on some of the issues previously raised by Members regarding the Pensions Bill.

Agreed: The Committee agreed to undertake the formal clause-by-clause scrutiny at next week’s meeting if it was possible to do so.

The Chairperson thanked the officials for their briefing

The officials left the meeting at 12.51pm

13. Date, time and place of next meeting

The next meeting will take place at 9.30am on Thursday 23 February 2012 in Room 29 Parliament Buildings.  

The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 12.51pm

Mr Alex Maskey
Chairperson, Committee for Social Development.
23 February 2012

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