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“Ritchie should use imagination” – Pat Doherty MP, MLA

27 November, 2007

Pat Doherty MP, MLA (West Tyrone) has called on Social development Minister, Margaret Ritchie to use her imagination to resolve funding issues within her department instead of blaming everyone else for her ineptitude.

Pat Doherty said:

"Margaret Ritchie like all other Ministers is given a budget allocation and it is her decision as to how she prioritises it. If Minister Ritchie decided to cut spending on Warm Home schemes, or reduce the amount spent on social housing that is her decision not the Executive's.

"Instead of crying that she didn't get enough money, perhaps Margaret Ritchie should tell us where she is directing the money that she is taking off the Warm Homes scheme, or cutting from the Housing Executive budget. Then the people will be able to judge whether or not she is making best use of the finances available.

"Maybe by using her imagination if that's not too much for her 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 Crossnacrievghy 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 work 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 landbank of any department. Perhaps Ms Ritchie should be looking at liquidising some of these assets in order to fund essential services instead of threatening to leave those on low incomes homeless or the elderly in freezing conditions in winter. Or, if she has the courage, the Minister needs to move to ensure that there is no dilution in Article 40 requirements for 20% social housing in all new developments and she will be able to address the long waiting lists for housing." ENDS

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