Derry HE plans could hit service

A local councillor has expressed concerns over plans to restructure the Housing Executive in the city.

Sinn Féin councillor Tony Hassan raised fears that the planned changes could result in a reduction in the number of Housing Executive staff locally.

He also voiced concerns at the impact the proposed changes could have on Housing Executive waiting lists in Derry.

Colr. Hassan said he had been contacted by Housing Executive staff who are concerned at claims the number of regional offices in the North will be cut from five to three, which would also reduce the number of district managers.

The Shantallow councillor said: “I am alarmed at this news and I fear that it may have an effect on the ability of the Housing Executive (HE) to deliver a proper service.

“Staff are worried that these changes could come into effect from April of next year and again this raises their fears of job losses,” he said.

Colr. Hassan said he previously raised concerns about proposed changes to the organisation of the Housing Executive.

“Last year I issued a statement about the running down of services in the Derry area and my concerns then are now being vindicated.

“It is my view the Housing Executive should be expanding their organization and given the resources to build new social homes,” he said.

Colr. Hassan said any reduction in service would could impact on service provision in the Derry area.

He continued: “Since the Housing Executive stopped building social homes in the mid nineties we have seen a massive rise in the housing crisis in places like Derry.

“Thousands on waiting lists and numbers rising every day. I believe if the HE had been allowed to continue on with new builds we would not be facing the problems we are having to deal with in 2011,” he said.

The councillor acknowledged the challenges the Housing Executive are facing but said cutbacks will not help the situation.

“We all know the pressures of the housing situation in Derry with the homeless list rising each day. And the aging housing stock and the vast amount of maintenance service it requires.

“These changes will add to the already busy workload for Housing Executive staff in the city and elsewhere,” he explained.

He also called for an urgent meeting to discuss the proposed changes. “Sinn Féin will be asking for an emergency meeting with the Housing Executive. It’s very important that the HE comes before local councils and the Assembly before any of these plans are put in place,” he said.

Concerns over the plans have also been expressed by public service union NIPSA. A NIPSA newsletter states: “NIPSA had sought a meeting with the minister on the DSD fundamental review.

“However, the minister has indicated he did not believe a meeting at this point in time would be worthwhile. NIPSA has now received a copy of the PriceWaterHouseCooper report and will be seeking to be fully engaged as part of the current review.”