Sinn Féin - On Your Side

SDLP Minister targets elderly and homeless with budget cuts

28 November, 2007

Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) has accused Social development Minister, Margaret Ritchie of targeting the homeless and the elderly by threatening to cut the Housing Executive budget and the Warm Home schemes by 50%.

Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"Margaret Ritchie like all other Ministers is given a budget allocation and it is her decision as to how she prioritises her Departmental spending.

"In announcing that she will have to take these draconian measures in order to stay within her budget constraints Margaret Ritchie is telling us that those in need of housing and the sick and elderly who wish to avail of the 'Warm Homes' schemes are at the bottom of her priority spending list. If Minister Ritchie has decided to cut spending on Warm Home schemes, or reduce the amount spent on social housing, then that is her decision as Minister for Social Development, not the Executive's.

"Perhaps she should inform us where her priority spending areas are. Then the people will be able to judge whether or not she is making best use of the finances available.

"Maybe she could follow the example of Michelle Gildernew and Conor Murphy. Instead of complaining that they did not get a big enough piece of the financial cake, Michelle sold off surplus assets at the Department of Agriculture facility at Crossnacrievy to fund an essential programme for farmers. Likewise, using his imagination to tackle the problem of upgrading the rail line between Derry and Ballymena, Conor Murphy lifted investment restrictions imposed by Mark Durkan and Direct rulers so that he could trigger EU funding to carry out the necessary work.

"The Department of Social Development is in possession of the largest land bank of any department. Perhaps Ms Ritchie should be looking at imaginative ways to utilize these assets in order to bring them into productive use for social housing provision instead of threatening to leave those on low incomes homeless or the elderly in freezing conditions in winter. Or, the Minister could move decisively to ensure that there is no dilution in Article 40 requirements for 20% social housing in all new developments so that she will be able to address the long waiting lists for housing." ENDS

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