17/10/2011 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.

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 17/10/2011. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



Hello. Welcome to Stormont Today. Well lady gatpwa may be coming to


Belfast for the MT -- Lady GaGa may be coming to Belfast for the MTV


awards. Given there is a forecast of severe


winter to come this winter. I say that almost everywhere I go now I


am met with dark predictions of weather conditions. The members


would have money to burn to keep them warm. In the best and worst of


times, the numeration for politicians will always be


controversial. It is simple to understand why. With me throughout


the programme is Fiona McCausland, from the Anti-Poverty Network.


Heating or eating - that's a choice we hear many people are making.


When Edwina Currie cast doubt on it at the weekend she caused uproar.


What levels of poverty do we experience here in Northern


Ireland? Is the former Tory MP out of step?


Fiona McCausland from, the Anti- Poverty Network can give us her


views. Is she out of step? Is she wrong? Well the people we talk to


and the people who are experiencing poverty at the sharp end, they are


making the choices between eating a hot meal or putting an extra bar on


the fire. It is a reality for many people. It is not a cliche. It is a


living reality. That reality will hit more and more people. People


who were not in poverty last year or in poverty this year. Those


numbers will grow next year. Last year, nearly 700 older people died


because of lack of heating. That figure is expected to double this


year. Yet, our Government has cut the Winter Fuel Payments that could


help make the difference between life and death. Is there a lack of


appreciation and lack of compassion among some people? Edwina Currie,


presumably isn't alone in her views? There's a very powerful


voice come from some of the press in London, putting blame on people


who are most vulnerable such as migrant workers, lone parents, even


older people. That tactic must stop because people will die and we have


to become a more compassionate society. We have to become a more


equal society. Do we have greater poverty in Northern Ireland


compared to the rest of the UK or compared to the republic? Yes, we


do. We are a community emerge from conflict. Conflict is fuelled by


poverty, where there's a grievance, where there is an identity or an


issue around borders. It's proven that poverty does cause conflict,


not just on its own, but with those other factors interfacing.


Following the conflict it is typical that persistent child


poverty, that is children living in poverty for a long period of time,


that is more common and that is an example of what happens in post


conflict societies throughout the world. And Northern Ireland does


experience that level of persistent child poverty. Fiona, stay with us.


Plenty more to talk about later. With reports of snow in some parts


today, it was good timing that the issue of treating roads and


footpaths should come up in questions to the Regional


Development Minister. Question Time was dominated by weather issues as


the Social Development Minister was quizzed on warm homes. We start


with regional development and good news for pedestrians. As the


members are aware, there's no legal responsibility for either councils


or road service to treat footpaths with salt or grit during adverse


weather. However, my department's road service has held a series of


meeting with representatives and the society of local authority


chief executives throughout the months. I personally attended the


first of these meet after which the executive continues the


negotiations on my behalf. It was to establish a consensus on a


number of points of principal which could be used as a basis for


negotiations between road service and councils, relating to the


removal of snow and ice from busy town centre footwells during


prolonged periods of wintry weather. And pleased that agreement has been


reached, providing a willingness to provide a service to local rate


payers. Road service has incorporated these points into a


draft amendment, which can be used to take account of preferences.


They are going to all councils to have this in place for this coming


winter season. It should be stressed that under these efforts


the focus will be on the busiest footwears as it would not be


possible to treat them on a wide- spread basis. In addition to the


2012 budget, to deal with the anticipated server weather, it does


earmark funds to provide a salting service with the aim of helping


main road traffic to move freely in winter conditions. Could the


minister tell us if the executive has any discussions with him


regarding additional budget? If there was additional money


available, whether this would allow salt to be provided to council and


to provide to council staff to do the work? A member for his


supplementary. Can I say that almost everywhere I go now I am met


with dark predictions of weather conditions, which are likely this


coming winter. Whether or not that's from the almanac or made up


to make me feel uncomfortable or not, I don't know. I know the


member would not be in that category any way. I am not a


prophet or a son of a prophet, nor do I read the almanac. Back in 2002,


there was a discussion around a service, annual service fee to


participating councils. No mention of that in the points of principal.


Can the minister assure us that we are going to have a working


relationship between DRD and local councils, for who ever is


responsible to deal with the problem? And not do, as the member


there was suggesting, pass the buck to the executive? I am grateful to


the member. I'm reminded that when one talks about principals of what


Marks said these are my principals and if you don't like them I have


some more. Nonetheless there are important principals agreed which


are being reflected between section engineers and local councils. Under


the agreed principals, road service will made salt available for


councils free of charge. Road Service will provide man power to


councils where resources permit and pass on the legal indem knitty to


my department to councils and groups working on their behalf such


as chambers of commercial or -- chambers of commerce.


These members wanted to know about lagged pipes. A considerable amount


of work has been undertaken to ensure that housing executive staff


and their contractors will be in a position to respond effectively and


speedily if there are severe weather conditions. Engineers are


checking that all water pipes are properly insulated when they visit


properties to carry out planned servicing to the systems. Any


missing or damaged insulation will be replaced at that time. This will


see improves to 3,800 properties. The housing executives magazine for


tenants views will be issued until the end of this month and will


include a full page of guidance on avoiding burst pipes, dealing


frozen pipes, with those that burst, finding the cock stop in the


property and what to do if you have no water. A further leaflet will be


included with the magazine. I have held a meeting the housing


executive to review preparations and response plans. Can I ask the


minister, telephone communications was an area the housing minister


has done. Has anything been done to improve this? A number of actions


have been taken to improve this. Including the staff willing to


respond to an emergency across the province has been enhanced A review


has been undertaken of the triggers which provide a warning of a


potential emergency, such as the volume of calls come into their


their customer service unit and the number of calls not being answered


to. Facilitate use by emergency services, public representatives


and community representatives, a priority call handling system of


silver numbers is now in place. When will the insulation be


upgraded to modern day standards? The member will be aware of recent


comments that I made in relation to the installation of double glazing


in all housing executive properties. And the current situation is that


60% of housing executive properties do not have double glazing only 40%


do. In some constituencies, including my own the figure is at


70%, in some areas it is lower. As part of the programme which will be


rolled out in relation to double glazing, associated with that will


be an improvement to the enhancement of the level of


insulation. You need to do the two together. The fact is that under


the current proposals by the executive it would be another


decade before that was fully completed. That's because, over


quite a number of years, the issue of double glazing and maintenance


and insulation on existing problems was de-prioritised. We are re-


prioritising that. I'm looking to work with the housing executive at


the moment and speaking to those who have their hands on the purse


strings to see what we can do. See what we can do to make sure


additional money is made available to have that programme completed in


a shorter period of time. One in five young people is unemployed and


getting them back into work is one of the Government's priorities.


Some 16-19 year olds came to Stormont Today to complain that


their training project has had its funding cut. Here's the project


leader. We're here because we want them to recognise what we're doing.


We have a programme which is a year old. We're not here talking about


this, we are talking and a model that is working. We're here to ask


them to recognise and identify what we're doing and identify us for


what we're doing. It's important. The kids are unique, they are


different. They need that programme to match it. I have asked for ages


for someone to physically come and visit the centre and see first-hand


the quality of the work these guys are producing. It's as simple as


that. The last two feedbacks we had was a refer -- we've been fobed off.


I think there's a -- fobbed off. think there's an issue. These


people have come from difficult backgrounds. They have been led up


the garden path and dropped, so the committee will want to take it up.


If you do have a job and if you are asked if your salary was high


enough, what would you say? MLAs are being surveyed on pay and


allowances. Martina Purdy asked the chair of


the independent review panel if a It's within our powers to cut the


salaries by 50%, either do that or increase it by 50% or more or


somewhere in between. That's something which the evidence will


support. We haven't gathered that evidence fully yet. Do you think


their pay is too low? Currently in comparison with the other


legislatures, in Wales for example, the level of pay is �53,000 per


annum, in Scotland, �57,000 per annum. With �43,000, per annum,


albeit for 108MLAs you might take the view there is a little headroom.


What is your view now? I don't have a view. I will have a view in


February. Even if the best of times or the worst of times, the level of


remuneration for politicians will always be controversial. It's


simple to understand why. And in terms of those MLAs who have


responded to your consultation, have any said they don't want to


take a pay rise? Not that I've seen. Well let's put that issue to our


guest. Fiona, what do you think about the pay MLAs receive. It is


significantly less than in Scotland and Wales. I mean everybody has a


right to fair pay. And also pay review and to see the pay is


commence rat with the skills and level of work they're carrying out.


At this time, when they're imposing cuts from the coalition Government


at Westminster, it would be seen as very insensitive. It is eradicate


poverty day across Europe. Is it realistic to see our getting rid of


poverty? Poverty is seen as abuse. So this special day comes every


year. Targets have been set. Unfortunately the Government at


Westminster and at Stormont do not look as if they're going to meet


the targets. We'll chat more in a moment. Now small rural schools


should be allowed to work together to survive Government cuts, that


was Conal McDevitt's call during debate this afternoon. Teachers and


parents face uncertainty over the the future with classes decided as


not viable. The things putting schools under threat is a


conconstituency, the fact we aren't taking decisions in the proper way


at many other, in many other parts of the education governance


structure. Deputy Speaker, there is a problem with premature school


closures. Why should any of this be happening before the boards and the


department itself is reorganised? Surely they should rationalise


themselves and their costly support services before they begin to


butcher our rural schools. No-one denies, least of all me, the need


for maximum efficiency in the deployment of resources, but what


is open to question is the process we're engaged in to achieve this.


Boards appear to be jumping the gun with or without the tacit support


of the department and school closures are being predetermined


ahead of the audit the minister has announced. That's the perception


out there with the public. That is the perception of the principals in


the report I mentioned. There is one thing that I'm sure of and that


is that this premature race to close schools will tear the heart


out of many rural communities and will do so at a time when we need


to look at schools as a community resource. I will deal with each


school on the basis of need, not on the basis of creed. I will ensure


there is equality of treatment for all children and young people


regardless. Schools are there to meet the needs of puerp ills


whether in rural or urban settings. I am determined to reshape the


system to provide high quality education that can be sustained for


all pupils. I understand schools carry with them emotional


attachment and history. However, let's not let that cloud our


decision making with emotion or history. It's our young people's


futures we are dealing with. We should not blight that because we


hanker after the past. With me is Mervyn Storey, chair of the


Education Committee. Why did you not support the alliance motion


about integrated education? Because surely that's the DUP's vision?


think the DUP's vision is for shared education. Therecy -- there


is a difference. It has created considerable difficulties


particularly for the control sector. We wanted to ensure that we have a


debate which focuses around the needs of schools and this debate


today was an important debate because there's huge amount of fear,


concern and suspicion with parents and teachers right across Northern


Ireland, about what their future is. I think the debate today was


extremely useful to have those issues aired. What is that future?


The future is to ensure we have sustainable schools which give the


best quality education to our children. So under a certain number,


the schools will automatically close, do you support that? We need


to move away from this arbitrary figure, unless it has 105, if it's


a rural school or 500 if it's an urban post-primary school, that


somehow that school is unviable. We have to look, the minister was


indicating that today, about the quality of the education and I


think we have to ensure that we have the buy in from the local


communities tone sure we have communities which are content and


happy with the education provision which they have in their area.


People aren't going to be happy if their small, rural school, just


down the road is going to close. That surely is going to happen in


many cases, if not the majority. The sad reality is particularly in


the control sector, we have seen the closure of some rural schools.


There are some rural schools which should never have been built. I can


think of one particular school in my constituency that was opened in


2006, at a cost of well over �500,000 where somewhere in the


region of 25 pupils. Today it's closed. The issues we have to face


is to ensure that we have education provision, which is the very best


and I think that's looking at the needs of the local community. And


it ensures that our children, either in the primary, post-primary


sector, are getting the best possible opportunity to have the


best possible education. On another issue, where do you stand on this


issue of MLA's pay? I know it's been taken from your hands. Have


you to take what they have said, are you happy to take a pay


increase at a time when services are being cut and so many thousands


of people out of work? The DUP's position has always been that we


wanted an independent advisory panel to look at this. That has


happened. We have come through on rer does situation in the past,


when the focus has been around what MPs have been paid and all the


issues around expenses. I think that now we have a situation


whereby this will be put into independent hands and they will


make the decision, I'm happy to abide by that. You'll accept a pay


rise if they give it to you? think we have to look at what is


said coming out of the review. It would be foolish of me to pre-empt


what that is. Certainly, in the economic climate that we're in


today, I think we have to look at every option in relation to


payments, expenses, all of those things. We are well scrutinised and


people know well what is the situation with regards to our


financial situation. Mervyn Storey, thanks for joining us. Now we've


seen tears and tantrums at recent committee meetings. At the Justice


Committee last week one civil servant got a grilling. We'll see


that in a moment. First the Education Committee discussing poor


leadership in schools. Members will wish to note that no Prince pals,


vice Prince pals or teachers have been dismissed for unsatisfactory


performance in the last five years. You may wish to consider the


information about the correlation between class size and the levels


of attainment. The issue in relation, I don't want this to


sound as though you're sort of trying to make principals and


teachers scapegoats for the issue of underperformance, however we


have a responsibility. It is concerning that there are saying


that nobody has been dismissed. We want tone sure that we have a


process that works. What sanction is there against inner schools


where there's identified a leadership issue. We all have


examples of where there may be an issue of the leadership in the


school and, I can think of one particular, and we have lost over


the last term at least 25 to 30 children from the school. It


becomes almost impossible to stop that. If we're not measuring poor


leadership and a school becomes unsustainable because of poor


leadership, it is nearly waiting for the inevitable to occur. It's


the department letting poor leadership continue because there's


no control mechanism there and the inevitable occurring, the numbers


go down. It becomes unsustainable and the community ends up paying


because someone didn't interview. Staff morale as well. The whole


thing. There's correspondence from the chief executive of the forensic


science Northern Ireland on the back of our indications we would


like to visit the facilities. In the response he has said that those


members that are going to attend will need to have DNA taken. That's


to ensure that the evidence or any of the items isn't contaminated, if


they're taken before a case, someone says actually it wasn't me,


such and such was here. They've advise today will not be detained.


Have there been assessments made that would indicate yes, we believe


this breach of security requires action to be taken or is it just a


general yeah, there may be a threat, but it doesn't war Anthony specific


response. I'm not asking you to name anybody. As you'll expect I've


taken advice on what to say on this because I don't do the assessment.


The advice is that it would not be advisable to give details of where


they've gone. I want to say, however, if there is action


required, it will be taken as the minister has directed. Mr Wells?


You didn't do very well on this one, did you? First of all Mr Rogers,


can I say I can spot when someone is trying to hide when someone is


trying to hide an embarrassing fact. I've been in this business for 30


years. You don't want to tell us something. That's why you are


hiding behind that about security measure. The chairman is not asking


you to reveal anything. We -- he doesn't want to point the finger.


He wants to know has someone been so alarmed by something that has


happened and have the police been equally alarmed that action has


been taken. I ask the question again: Has there been anyone out


there, no name mentioned or locality, whose personal security


has been compromised by this debacle that urgent action had to


be taken? If you refuse to answer that again, the committee can draw


its own conclusions. I'm not able to answer that question. Are you


not able or not willing? I think it would be inadvisable for me to


answer it because I am trying to protect the security of the


individual. Why would giving that information compromise the security


of anyone. It's a long standing principle in dealing with security


matters, if you confirm in one case that security is breached, in


another case you are not going to confirm and by a process of


elimination you confirm which each is. Out of 183, you would have to


be a genius. I'm operating on advice. Don't mess with Jim wells.


Foreign visitors to Stormont are not usual. This week we have more


than our fair share. Some of our politicians have been on their


travels too. Some of the people involved in the peace process here


and leading up to the Good Friday Agreement are in the Basque country


today? Yes, there have been ongoing contacts between politicians from


here and in the Basque country for some time. We had a former senior


civil servant here appointed to the monitoring commission, monitoring


the ETA ceasefire. A big occasion at the start of this week with


Gerry Adams, Bertie Ahern and Jonathan Powell all in the Basque


country calls for ETA, the separatist group there, to


difintively abandon violence, to disband in the expectation that ETA


will come up with the goods on that and that the Spanish government,


they hope, will then respond positively. What are you hearing so


far? Certainly Bertie Ahern has spoken along those lines, made that


call. If this comes off, I suppose, it would be seen as the most


difintive example of the local peace process here being exported


somewhere else. They talk about it in the Basque country as the Irish


peace process. Apart from being of interest internationally, it's part


of a growing cottage industry here, that we witness at Stormont. People


are coming here, trying to learn lessons from what's happened here.


We've had visitors from the Middle East, Columbia, looking at the


diary this week, we have Americans tomorrow. On Wednesday, we have


leaders from Nagaland, which is an area in north eastern India where


they have a long ethnic dispute. They're trying to see if they can


learn lessons. That's kept politicianed and political


commentators on their toe. Another contender for the SDLP leadership


set out his stall today? Yes, but the SDLP involved in the ongoing


election. Alastair McDonnell was saying this is the last opportunity


to stop the terminal decline of the party as some might see it. He


launched his manifesto earlier on today. Tomorrow, we have Alex


Atwood, setting out why he believes he should be leader. Colin McDevitt


set out his campaign last weekend. He was talking then about


renegotiating the Good Friday Agreement, maybe leading towards


opposition. Still I think the bookies think that the man to be


beaten is the man would declared first of all. Fiona, we talked


about rural schools tonight, is there a difference between poverty


in rural areas and in cities? in rural areas the costs, the more


isolated the areas, the cost would increase. The cost of basic things


like food and transport and fuel are increased. What the Government


must do, what Stormont must do, is do an impact assessment to see how


this affects the most vulnerable, these decisions and to look at


alternatives. As I was listening to the discussion, I was very aware


that Stormont is now imposing cuts that will impact the most


vulnerable in society. What we need is alternatives to ensure that we


don't go back to the dark days of the conflict that poverty is not an


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.

Download Subtitles