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‘No excuse’ for Ritchie failing the Bogside - Anderson

11 November, 2008 - by Maeve McLaughlin

Martina Anderson, Sinn Féin MLA (Foyle) has again criticised the Department of Social Development Minister, Margaret Ritchie, for failing to include opportunities for the people of the Bogside in the Dove Gardens building scheme.

"I am disappointed that the Department has tried to justify the failure to include social objectives such as apprentice training and jobs for the long-term unemployed as part of the building works at Dove Gardens," Ms. Anderson said.

"Recently I criticised the Social Development Minister, Margaret Ritchie for missing an opportunity to provide employment and skills - as well as social homes - in one of the North's most deprived areas

"The Department has since responded by pointing out that the guidance relating to the inclusion of social objectives in government contracts only came into effect in May this year.

"That is true but there was absolutely nothing to stop the Minister from including these objectives on her own initiative. These guidelines were drawn up following a highly successful pilot project in 2002 - six years before work started at Dove Gardens.

"If the Minister was determined to get the maximum advantage out of public money in terms of addressing deprivation as well as building new homes then she should have insisted that social objectives were included.

"That is what Sinn Féin has been doing in relation to Ilex for example. We have been arguing for social objectives long before the guidelines ever came into force. As a result of that, we have now secured commitments that a significant number of apprenticeships and jobs for the long-term unemployed will be provided as part of the footbridge project next year.

"We will continue to demand similar initiatives in all projects which are funded from the public purse. I would also call on the Social Development Minister to start displaying the same kind of initiative and leadership rather than waiting to be led by the hand." ENDS

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