Committee Fears Budget Cuts and Job Losses

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 08 March 2010

Reference: SD 11/09/10

The budget for maintaining and improving the Northern Ireland Housing Executive stock may be cut by around £40m within a year. This could lead to over 1000 job losses in the construction sector. That’s if cutbacks to NIHE capital works programmes are made in-line with proposals in the Savills Report. A debate on the Report was brought to the Northern Ireland Assembly today by the influential Assembly Social Development Committee.

Committee Chairperson, Simon Hamilton, MLA said: “The Committee had been seeking access to this important report for some time. It is essential that its key recommendations are subjected to scrutiny by the Committee and debate by the Assembly.”

He continued: “Social housing is an important and emotive issue. While the Committee supports the drive for more new social housing, Members feel that tenants in existing below-standard housing should not be forgotten. The Committee wants to see a balance between the key strands of the social housing strategy – maintenance, capital improvements and new build.”

The Savills Report highlights issues relating to the cost of maintaining and improving NIHE stock and suggests that above-inflation increases could be made to Housing Executive rents for a sustained period.

Simon Hamilton indicated: “Members believe that rents should be set at fair levels which will not disadvantage vulnerable tenants or the working poor. Raising Housing Executive rents above inflation is a difficult and contentious suggestion. The Committee expects to see an examination of all aspects of Housing Executive costs including interest payments on historic loans. In this context, the Committee wants to study further the Savills’ proposal for a wide-ranging review of social rents and other charges.”

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