13/12/2011 Stormont Today


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.

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Hello and welcome to the final Stormont Today of 2011. Christmas


is in the air and winter has got a grip, with polar winds and ripping


around Parliament Buildings, but it is business as usual in the chamber,


and the Compton Report on health is published and the minister's


message is clear. I say to them, read the review report. It paints a


compelling picture of the need to reform. And the dark side of


Christmas - members call for greater protection from pay-day


loan companies. These rates represent extortion to say the


least. Whether they are illegal or suffer from a lack of regulation,


they are in scrupulous. With me tonight, Jo Black from the


Citizens' Advice Bureau. Also tonight, what does an MLA one


for Christmas? May be a couple of tickets for Westlife's farewell to


a. And iPad. By at least start tonight with the


publication of today's review into the health service, and the Compton


review may not be the first of its kind but unlike some of its


predecessors this one will not be left on the shelf, according to


Edwin Poots, the Health Minister, who unveiled details of the review


to the assembly today. The panel made 99 recommendations, and just


before the Minister began his statement, the fact that members


had only just received the document was raised in the chamber. Members


only received this 150 page document at 5-ten this morning. How


can this house have an intelligent, informed discussion about these


important matters, given the paucity of notice? I am just


dealing with that point. Because I have respect for this house, this


has received its first as opposed to someone leaking it for the media.


The purpose of the review was to examine the future provision of


services including our acute hospital Configuration, the


provision of primary social care, and there were very real concerns


that on that system was not sustainable to continue to meet the


priorities, with the consequences for patient care and safety. My


intention was to set a new reform agenda, to give us more momentum


towards my vision and priorities for social care services for


Northern Ireland. If the need for change was not clear before the


report, I say, read the review report. It paints a compelling


picture of the need to reform. We have ten acute hospitals in


Northern Ireland, serving a population of 1.8 million. This


contrast with other areas of the UK with some of popular -- populations.


Our in it must be the provision of resilient, sustainable and saved


services. It is in that strategic context that the review envisages


by 2016, 2017, the model of acute hospitals for Northern Ireland


would reconfigured to a more appropriate scale. It is only


likely to be possible to provide sustainable, resilient and acute


services on 5-7 sides. But may well prove to be the case, I cannot say


at this stage. Our services need to adapt to the ageing population, to


ensure that we can provide an appropriate level of services in


the future. It is not surprising that a significant section of the


report is devoted to improving services for older people, and for


those with long-term conditions. The report highlights that home


should be the highlight -- harbour of care for older people. Can ask


the Minister, he has mentioned the cost when you go to change anything,


it is bought at 25 million. Does he have that money within his current


budget to meet those extra costs, or will he be seeking money from to


fund that? Is the first place I will be seeking funding from the


DFB. It it is not forthcoming, we need to then find the money within


the system. Could the Minister assure this assembly that funding


will follow those most abominable in our society? Maybe it I had less


noise and a bit more listening, it would help the member. We are


looking at shifting �80 million from the hospital sector to the


community sector, so how clear red can we be. It is all in the


statement. I welcome the Minister's statement and my long awaited


opportunity to ask a question on it. Let me assure the House of my


party's unwavering commitment to the health service and our need to


improve it. I would like to ask the Minister, what are the implications


of this review for staff and staffing numbers, right across the


sector, that is including those caring in the community? Let us not


raised unnecessary concerns. We will manage those situations, and


will not be introducing a vast array of compulsory redundancies in


Northern Ireland as a consequence of this report.


So is the writing on the wall for some of our acute hospitals? I am


joined by the chair of Health Committee, Michelle Gildernew.


Edwin Poots talked about this vast sum of money, �83 million being


moved from the hospital sector into the community. Ali confident that


if all that and sick people are cared for more often in their homes,


but the services will be there to look after them properly? I hope


they will, and we have heard during the day that people are willing to


look at a better model of delivering care, and it is


certainly very clear that GPs will have an enhanced role, and they


need to have the resources to go with that. I would also welcome


more of the focus on community and primary care, and the emphasis on


prevention, and I welcome the North -- but I have concerns, and when we


have got time to digest the document and maybe dig into the


detail behind the document, for example we have the situation


whereby Minister has told us about the road map for the future and


about how at the 17 integrated care Partnerships will be able to


achieve sign-off. What does that mean? That is what we will be


asking the minister? If they can be a veto threat that process. So


approval needs to be sought. But I will be asking the minister


tomorrow who is going to be on the clinical Forum, and where others


people going to be from, and what is their role and how much power do


they have? We could have a situation whereby there is a local


plan worked out, and as that goes further up the line, that is vetoed.


So I would be concerned about the detail behind the document, probing


into what is not in the document, and I suppose I am trying hard not


to be cynical. Formal consultation - Mac no formal consultation - is


that a concern at all viewers? did press on the need for


consultation, and we thought that because there was so much Prix


consultation done, I would encourage people to download the


document if you have broadband provision at home. But to have a


look at the document and to send your thoughts to the minister on it,


because I think that when people get the chance to study it properly


there will be things that concerned them. It is important that we as


the health committee are able to scrutinise the department and John


Compton in this document. Is there a role city divided, that will


appear with the loss of any services and surgery in some of the


acute hospitals? Again, nothing is named in the report, it is careful


in that, that you have to be between the lines to see what is


being said. So he has left that as a political decision, rather than


the review team making the decision which hospitals have an X beside


them? We know that some times the decision is taken out of the hands


of the local minister, so there could be times when there will


college says that that service is not sustainable. So there are ways


and means of deciding that a hospital should close without


actually taking the political decision yourself. Thank you for


joining us tonight. Legalised extortion was how one MLA


described so-called pay-day loans today. Customers can face extremely


high interest rates if they do not repay the money within the time


agreed, and the number of companies offering the loans appears to be


increasing. MLAs are calling for the Government in London to


introduce tighter regulations in the industry. Many of these loans


on offer are lent with extraordinary rates of interest,


sometimes ten times the amount initially borrowed. These rates


represent extortion to say the least, a legal form of loan sharks.


One could compare pay-day loans to a scheme on offer for cash for gold.


These companies are preying on the vulnerable and disadvantaged, who


in hard times are desperate. think that it is incumbent on


people like the Financial Services Authority to look at the issue of


proposing a cap on the rates. I am not surprised that the proposer of


the motion said that the coalition Government have expressed


opposition. Many of their policies by what are driving people to was


unveiling themselves of these facilities. If you type pay-day


known into Google you get 9,300,000 references. The issue I believe is


very easily defined - for words would cover it. Rising costs,


static wages. That is at the better it -- a better end of it. At the


worst end it is no wages. As the unemployment figures goal north of


60,000. The Government has agreed to investigate the impact of a cap.


This to my mind is to be welcomed, but there is concern this is just a


holding response. And that it will not get much towards the research


stage. The only sensible option here is tighter regulation rather


How big an issue is those poor people coming to ask for help?


Citizens Advice dealt with �37 million of debt in the previous


year and only a small amount were pay day loans. The majority was


credit card loans. A report last week showed that millions of


Britons over the Christmas period may use pay day loans and hence the


publicity. I think pay day loans are beginning to cause problems


where people are facing a wider debt picture. Are they easier to


get up than a credit card? The OFT is currently looking at how it


these pay day loans are regulated. The application process is


different for each kind and section 5 of the Consumer Credit Act


regulates how people are able to apply and if you apply online there


are questions as to whether this constitutes a regulated agreement.


And they would be questions as to whether a credit check has been


established which is reliable and robust enough. So I think pay day


loans are coming on line in terms of whether it they are a viable


kind of credit. The Justice Minister may be glad to see the


back of question time this year as he seems to bear the brunt of most


ill-temper from other members. Today he tackled questions on a


possible Police Museum. Up first was the Education Minister and have


you ever wondered what marks a school lead for closure and what


marks the definition of a rural school? Rural schools are the heart


of their communities and it will leave a huge gap in that area it is


closed. Can the minister advise as to what Lee weight is given to


rural school that finds itself in an unsustainable position? In terms


of choice of language, if we have from rural school in an


unsustainable position but it begs the question as to why we should


maintain that school. We have to ensure that we do not allow the


majority of our rural schools to reach that condition. The


sustainable schools policy does allow for pariah the and the needs


of rural communities to be taken into consideration -- allows for


plurality. A school is considered rural air It is outside Belfast


City Council area or outside the urban area of Derry City Council,


said the vast majority of schools are classified as rural. But then


primary schools are based on 140, rural primary schools are based on


105, taking into account the accessibility of the community is


also important. Rural communities will be able to bring forward any


relevant information to the needs and requirements of that community


and why a specific school should remain. But all decisions will have


to be based on the needs of the pupils in the school. We cannot


plan our future education system on the needs of school buildings.


up, academic selection, and to his pain for some schools to run their


tests. Does the Department have concerns about the legality of


schools charging pupils to sit tests? While the school is funded


by it a private donor, and it appears that is the case in a


number of circumstances, that a private donor is being used to fund


the tests. Walid the school of parents are covering the cost


themselves. The fact is that parents are being charged to excess


a publicly-funded education. Even more worrying, parents are being


charged to beat rejected and their children are being charged to be


rejected from publicly funded education. That is a matter of


concern for us all because we have held on to the right to education


free at the point of delivery amicably have a case where a number


of schools are charging or a private donor is covering the cost


to allow a child into a school or to say that a child will not come


into that school. It is a matter I intend to further investigate.


up, David Ford was asked about progress on the planned policed


Museum. I continue to fully support the creation of a police museum but


there remain some issues to be resolved before the business case


can be approved and submitted. There are outstanding questions in


terms of running costs and planning issues. To say I am disappointed


would be an understatement. I have to impress upon the minister that


he needs to take personal control of this. There is a clear feeling


that officials are procrastinating, delaying, some would suggest


deliberately so... Question, please! I would ask the Minister to


make this one of his priority schemes and have a moving forward.


I did make it clear that I personally net in July and my


officials have been following the matter up. The reality is that


business cases do have to be met. The issues relating to matters like


planning also have been met. That is my ambition but it is not


something the department can deliver on its own. Finally, will


the Minister be taking action against republican protesters who


camped outside 28 Fred prison last month? The department became aware


that there were plans for the protest. Following discussions, it


was decided to facilitate a peaceful protest in the grounds of


Maghaberry present in alliance with the Convention on Human Rights.


Officials attempted to make contact with the organisers of the protest


in order to establish boundaries which would facilitate the protest.


No response was received. The government arrange for notices to


be protest did -- to be posted making clear that the protest was


be conducted peacefully, without Fred to any persons, and must not


present a threat to the court order of the prison. During the protest


there was a minor it damage to property but there were no injuries


to police or prison officers. We are currently examining CCTV


footage of the protest. Any evidence of criminal behaviour by


individuals will be a matter to be followed up by the police service


and the Prosecution Service. All prisoners were given �five phone


credit in order to keep in contact with their families while visits


were suspended. That phone credit was paid from the prisoners amenity


Fund. During the debate on the pay day loans today, their boss some


advice from various MLAs. One suggested it was better to go to a


credit union, another suggested overdrafts. What would your advice


be? Our advice would be that there are cheaper ways to borrow than pay


day loans. There are complaints about the charges people are


incurring from their banks. That makes them extremely unpopular. I


was surprised to hear that appearing on the floor today.


Currently, credit unions are not regulated, that is coming in in


20th April 12. Our message would be due not overstretch yourself. It is


a long time to the next pay-day from the middle of December to do


middle of January. Where should people go, should they go and talk


to their bank manager if they have a bank account? An independent


financial adviser would be what we would recommend. We can refer them


to do financial ombudsman's service if they had been taken advantage of.


Complaints can be taken by a individuals if they feel they have


been treated unfairly. We would say keep an eye on your finances. If


you do have a number of debts, a pay day loans can put you in a


position that you would not expect. It is the time of year to look back


and reflect and who better to give us a sense of assembly business


than a political correspondent? There are those who will tell you


that nothing happens appear on the hill, but that is not quite true.


He is my history of what has been happening. Since September there


have been 27 plenary sittings of the assembly, a total of 72 motions


have been debated, 64 of which were carried. 65,400 questions were


tabled for written and oral answer. I am afraid not a single bill was


passed. On the plus side, at the programme for government was agreed


and is out for consultation. Not a single MLA managed to get himself


suspended during this term there there was some bad behaviour in the


public gallery last week. That is the first time such a thing has


happened in the history of the assembly. He won name for your


poetic genius in the political unit and you have penned a special one


for Russ. Modestly, I have to agree with you! What better way to


reflect what has been happening in the assembly than with some poetic


justice, with a festive twist? It was that night before Christmas and


all through the House not eight MLA stirred. Through the doors that


Peter Martin and their festive crystal ball. First the not in


Gwent -- inconsequential matter of the presidential election. Martin


escaped to the land of Nana. Martin raised to farce. Come, come, said


Peter, it is still them and us. Peter said, a little bit too loud,


you are no Gerald date. Coming dangerously close to making a scene,


Peter asked, would the minister meet the Queen? Never, and roared


Martin. You know, said Peter, you sound just like the dock. Both men


tested an absent friend. It is the season to be memory, Peter tasted


gym, and Martin tasted Jerry. should rename him our poetic


correspondent! Since it is the season of goodwill we decided to


ask some of our MLAs to play Secret Santa, their task being to choose a


present for a fellow MLA. He is what they said, company by the


choir from Newtownards Model Primary School. One thing I would


like for Christmas is a couple of tickets for Westlife's farewell


tour. They are in Croke Park and other places in 2012. And they are


a good group. I would laugh a brand new iPad2, thank you very much! I


watch my colleague using this in the assembly, and I think it is an


amazing device. So anybody out there thinking of buying me a


present, and nice iPad2 would be very much appreciated! If you could


be Secret Santa this year, he would you choose to buy a present form


what would it be. I was thinking about this. At the end of the day,


there are few people day you could buy presents for but definitely


fake smile for Michael. It would do him no harm around Christmas.


Obviously, I would have to buy a gym a high quality bottle of red


wine, mainly in the hope that he would give it back to me, as he


does not drink! It would be difficult but out of duty to my


constituents who would have to produce 107 p 45 so because I do


have to say that this place is a shambles. And, of course, other


tablet devices are available. People do tend to spend a lot of


money, particularly in the last few weeks. Any advice, without spoiling


Christmas? Thought for a kiss. Time spent together. Consider how long


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Tara Mills is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people from decision makers to opinion formers to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.

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