30/04/2013 Stormont Today


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

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Hello, and welcome to Stormont Today. Coming up on the programme:


more care homes are to close, this time in the west of Northern


Ireland. The Health Minister defends the move towards more care


at home. We're very clear early - focused on what we want to do, and


that's create better options for elderly people to maintain their


independence and dignity. We'll be joined by the chair of Store moth's


health committee. Also tonight, all transport issues were on the agenda


from the A15 to Narrow Water Bridge. We have run out of road or bridge


when it comes to this matter being concluded, and if that doesn't


bring people to their senses, I don't know what will. Martin


McGuinness gets his acronyms in a twist. I think the work that is


happening from the IRA - sorry - the IFA. Whoa! So the Western


Health Trust has joined the northern and southern trusts in


announcing the closure of its residential homes. Relatives and


residents were told the plans. It's all part of major change approved


by the Health Minister last month which is aimed at allowing more


elderly people to be looked after at home. This is what Edwin Poots


took -- told Newsline. We want to create better options for elderly


people to maintain their independence and dignity, and we


believe that support and care is a much better option for the elderly.


However, there is an issue about how we handle those elderly people


who are currently in residential homes who are content, and we


understand that it can cause a huge amount of stress to them if there


is a proposal to move them. What we're looking at is a


different form of care. The care will provide support for people who


become frail and will have to move into residential care, and that is


different option for them. I think the people who are currently in


care, those are the people we need to demonstrate to that we will


treat them with dignity, care and respect, and the trust have


identified they want to close 100% of homes. There's a consultation


exercise to take place, and it's very important we listen. I am


joined by the chair of the health committee at Stormont, Sinn Fein's


Sue Ramsey. We know it was proposed closing 50%


of care homes with a much greater emphasis on caring for people in


their own homes, supported care, it's called system that something


you're happy with in principle? think most people are happy with


the vision of transforming your care. The committee is happy with


the vision. What struck me is when you're building a house, you have


your plans and put your foundation in. We need to see the foundations


around Transferring your Care. And closing residential homes now


actually doesn't go a long way to people buying into this. We have


the cart before the horse - the closure of the homes before the


framework that'll succeed them in place? That's some of the stuff we


need to tease out, and we have the committee meeting tomorrow. We'll


be asking the Chief Executive of the board to answer those questions,


but the concern is some people don't know what Transforming Your


Care is, and eldly people who have been in homes - some of them 10, 15,


20 years are being told the home will close. We need to have people


buy to this it to have the plan in place. The Minister says that


within three to five years, 50% are closing. Now it seems all the homes


are closing. You, as chair of the committee, and your committee, in


allowing the Minister to go down this road - if he said 50% of homes


would close - that's what he expected would happen - was that


not the green light to the trusts to close all the homes, which was


exactly what they have done? It was inevitable? I don't think we have


missed the trick. It's not a final decision, and tomorrow, as chair of


the Health committee, I have asked Mr Compton to come up and explain


as the Health and Social Care Board to explain what this means. The


final decision rests with the Minister. If he's saying 50% of the


homes will close between three and five years, and the trust says


we're doing it now, he needs to say, I am the Minister. You'll do as I


say. That's an interesting question as to where the balance of power


lies. It's actually up to the trusts to deliver the health care


on the ground. That's not the Minister's responsibility.


deliver on his proposals and his policy, and the Transforming Your


Care policy is about ensuring more services are available at ground


level. This proposal coming from the trust is proposing homes close


right away. The Minister told us it would be 50% within three to five


years. He has serious questions to ask of his trust's Chief Executives.


He was asked on BBC Newsline tonight, do these announcements go


too far? Is it too far to say, as three of the trusts have said, that


a hundred percent of their trusts would close? He didn't say it was


going too far. He said it was going further than he expected. There are


currently proposals. As the Minister, he has the duty to ensure


his policies and strategy is implemented. If the trust is going


beyond what he has requested, he needs to question them. You can


understand it because the trusts are under pressure. They're having


to make savings left, right and centre. This is one way of doing it


and doing it in a relatively straight forward way and saving


quite a lot of money in a pretty straight forward way.Ing see the


attraction of it. By attacking the most vulnerable. Is that the way


you see it? The elderly and our children we always see as the most


vulnerable in our society. The issue - we would then need to pay


for that care, so if that care is in the community, we'll have to pay


for it anyway. If people need care in private, homes will have to pay


for it, so we need to look at efficiency savings, but not by


attacking those who are the most vulnerable. That's very colourful


language to be using. You're obviously not very happy about it,


but what are you actually going to do about it? We have John Compton


in front of the committee tomorrow and will be questioning him. The


other issue we'll be dealing with within the committee is over


187,000 cancelled appointments last year within the trust, cancelled by


the hospital and by consultants. That's where we can get efficiency


savings which will free up more. Interesting to watch how the debate


unfolds in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you very much for


joining us. Cross-border relations were top of the agenda when the


assembly convened this morning. First up was the Deputy fir pir --


fish fish with matters all iernd. - 2020 period compared with 2007,


2013 - obviously, that's disappointing. We continue to


ensure the final agreement delivers a flexible cap particularly in


relation to the move to flat-rate payments. I would like the thank


the Deputy Prime Minister for - Deputy First Minister for His


statement, and I wonder, could he update us, was the A5 and the


Narrow Water Bridge, these very important cross-border projects


discussed? Our Government are fully implemented to the A5 project.


Everybody is conscious of the recent judicial review where a


judgment was made in the context of one of 12 objections. The Minister


decided not to appeal, but to go for a remedy. It appears that that


remedy will probably require a period of some - a year to 18


months to resolve. There is still a total commitment from the checktive


and the Irish Government to the scheme. We also took the


opportunity during the course of the discussions with Mr Gilmore to


remind him that the First Minister and I in previous conversations


with Enda Kenny pressed the Irish Government to ensure the decision


they took to withdraw from their part of the scheme with the


exception of 50 million, that that needed to be reviewed on an ongoing


basis. The Taoiseach actually gave us a commitment that would be


reviewed in 2013. In relation to the Narrow Water Bridge, the


Department of Finance and Personnel are currently undertaking a


rigorous critical review of that bridge project. I hope there is an


early and positive decision, given that the vital importance of this


project - and certainly from my own experience and the Speaker himself


knows well the impact that a very small bridge in our own city has


made not just to the architecture of the city, but to the psychology


of the citizens. What do you think the legacy will be at the end of


the presidency, that people can look back on and say, we have moved


forward. This was our main achievement during that six months'


period? Well, obviously, the presidency has been held by the


Irish Government, and I think from their perspective, we had our own


discussions with them prior to taking over the presidency. The big


concern was around whether or not there would be agreement at the


European level on the budgets, and the last time the First Minister


and I were in Brussels, the British Government in particular were


getting a very bad press from European leaders.


That has now been resolved. At a governmental level, there is


agreement. At European level, there is agreement. The only body now to


adjudicate this - and I think the vote will probably come in June -


will be the European Parliament. If that goes through, if the cap


negotiations go through in the way in which they have designed them, I


think the Irish Government will consider that to be a major success


for them. The Deputy First Minister there who touched on the A5 road


project, and the transport theme continued with statements from the


Environment Minister and the Minister for Regional Development,


but it was building bridges, not roads, they were concerned with,


and in particular, the Narrow Water Bridge project between Counties


Down and Lythe. Let's be frank about this. We're at the 11th hour


or one minute to midnight or whatever way you want to convey it.


We have run out of road or out of bridge when it comes to this matter


being concluded. President Barrosso opens up the European funding door


for us, a door that in my view we have a lot more to do in order to


get through, and that's a comment upon on my own department as it is


a comment upon Government. So how do we reconcile that Barroso opens


a door for European funding, and we close the door when it comes to


Narrow Water? I think that doesn't add up politically. I think it is


disrespectful to the European authorities, and I think, more than


anything else, it cuts off our nose to spite our face. So I think that


if this matter doesn't conclude itself in the next couple of weeks,


then we may be past one minute to midnight in terms of getting us


over the line, and therefore, I think that there is only one way


forward, and that is make the decision, and make the decision now.


There is a battle - an ongoing battle, it seems to me, a turf war,


of a type, competing between the SDLP and Sinn Fein as to the


ownership of this project and how - and who should celebrate who can


claim victory with it. I have no interest in that. It's not - that


is not relevant to the work of me or my department. I'm dealing with


the legal processes which I have to deal with. I will consider after


the consultation period has ended whether or not I am bound to


consider, actually - whether or not it will be necessary to bring


forward a public inquiry. I am aware that the Minister for Finance


and Personnel has to consider the business case. I have no doubt that


he will consider that on its proper basis. But it is not helped to have


to say by unnecessary political grandstanding, which has been


engaged in by the two Nationalist parties in that area attempting to


Let's talk about a couple of these projects, the Narrow Water Bridge.


It was said this was the 11th hour, definitely going to happen, has to


happen. Not sure where the DUP stands on it. Do you think it is


going to happen? I think it probably will. I think they're used to be a


phrase about people playing silly games and I think that he is trying


to make a point about the political issue. Quite why, I don't know. It


is an �18 million project, a lot of jobs, good for tourism,


communication, trade. This is happening as part of an EU peace. We


had people saying yesterday they were trying to complete a euros with


the Executive saying they would not go ahead would be a very negative


message to the European Union about the interest that people of Northern


Ireland have about the money. We also have a very unclear picture as


far as A5 is concerned. Martin McGuinness said he is still


committed to its construction. is a lot of confusion around the


project, with the question of the land that has been vested and now


apparently has been given back to the farmers, from whom it was vested


in the first place. That is a muddle at the moment and how it is going to


be resolved would be pretty tricky. Maybe they have spent the money they


have already got. On the bigger picture, it looks like it is going


to take a few years. The Irish government said they are politically


committed to seeing the work achieved but, unfortunately, they


don't have the money saw not financially committed. If things


pick up in the next few years, maybe the money will come. Ireland is


still in a time of austerity. It could be quite a while before we see


cars blazing down a motorway in the north-west. A lot of people want to


see that but, as you say, it could be quite some time. I wanted to get


your reflections on Sarah Scottish Education Secretary -- Sue Ramsey's


comments. She took quite a tough line on what has happening. She


talked about the Minister attacking the most vulnerable in our society.


That is, as I suggested, pretty colourful language for the Chair of


the committee to be using, in relation to a minister's position,


isn't it? It is a sensitive position. If you have an elderly


parent or grandparent facing that dilemma, you would need some


certainty. You don't want a situation where the card is put


before the horse. You want to know that if you're going to have care in


the community it is going to be proper. If you're not going to have


proper care then you want a home for your elderly parent or grandparent


to go to. Very interesting to see quite how that plays out in the


months ahead. Environmentalists hopes for a Marine


Management Organisation have suffered a major setback. The


Assembly has dropped an amendment on the Marine Bill that would have


created a new organisation to oversee all coastal areas of


Northern Ireland. The Alliance MLA Anna Lo tabled the amendment.


Sustainable development does not seek to stop us from growing our


economy. Rather, it aims to put in place a balance of economic, social


and environmental measures to ensure we continue to do things effectively


in the years to come. I asked him why did you not go for, as England


and Wales, the independent model. The response came back from Scotland


that they believed they were too small to have an independent MMO.


Whenever you consider that Scotland accounts for roughly two thirds of


all of the UK territorial waters, for them to believe that that was


too small for them to govern, I think really highlights the fact


that, perhaps, Northern Ireland which is a much smaller percentage


is far too small. Are we seeing that we want another committee to look


after Marine? That is the question that has to be asked. I know that


the juror brought up issues of money and the Minister hopefully will


reflect on them. I did not hear what his comment was to the cheer at that


time but I would like to know because, if that is what it is about


and if we are considering cost of an issue, then, if we bring forward


legislation, cost will always be an issue. It is a very special place.


It has been trashed. It is the only word for it. Vantage have been able


to scuba dive. When you drive along the worst mussel beds, or what where


horse mussel beds, it looks like you're diving a ploughed field.


Except, a ploughed field is ploughed for a purpose. The purpose is to


grow new stuff. To manage the land. This has been raped. I listen to


Mister McDevitt say that when you step into the sea and butcher


goggles on you are in a different world. I accept that. If you go to


some of the country places you will feel you are in a different world. I


don't believe that is an argument just to have a Marine Management


Organisation. I think at the heart of many people's frustrations with


these institutions, and probably most of the Executive and government


departments, is the failure to work together and the mentality that is


perceived at the heart of government. I do believe it is


perception. I think to not introduce an MMO, or even almost, I suppose,


be half way house of the Scottish model, -- model... I see this as a


model for which this Government can define and reconfigure its ambition


over the lifetime of this mandate. The Marine Bill should be followed


by a climate change bill. Before the climate change Bill, there should be


a second levy bill. After the climate change Bill, there might yet


be a national parks bill. The environment Minister. The role


of the Public Accounts Committee is to scrutinise the working of public


bodies and how they manage their money. Last week, the troubled Fire


and Rescue Services was called into these questions on how it operates.


There have even management problems. Here is a flavour of


seedings in our weekly look at committee business. The problems


started to come late in 2009. You are saying today that you are still


tried to appoint people. That is four years afterwards. That is


taking too long. For years in a culture that has been particularly


bad according to this report. This report is damning the organisation.


It comes to light in 2009. We are still talking about it in 2013.


came to light in 2009. We then had a change of board, change of German, a


series of changes. It was around the time of the investigation into the


whistleblowing that Peter retired and I then had to have very serious


discussions with the cheer as to how to then deal with the situation. I


was also talking to the Chief Fire rescue adviser to local communities


and government in England. To take advice at the highest level as to


how to provide interim leadership in a context where there was not a pool


of applicants stepping forward. We have had such a turnover. So, yes,


some things began to emerge in 2009 but the full picture, coming through


the whistleblowing, and we need to acknowledge and appreciate that that


happened, and make sure that, that came through during 2011. It was a


gradually emerging picture. If I sound a little bit annoyed it is


because, there was a whistleblower in 2002. He gave valuable


information that could have resolved all these problems. That


whistleblower was sacked. -- sacked from the border during a period of


suspension. That person was Rosemary Creek. She won't mind me mentioning


that. You know it anyway. We are now dealing with a new set of


whistle-blowers and we know what happened to them before. We know


what happened to others. We know about Mister Boyle has spent several


months down in Enniskillen. If you are a professional accountant, has


humiliated mustard be to be taken from your posts and sent out to


Siberia, so to speak. Doctor McCormick, in view of the evidence


before this committee today, do you not think that there is scope for a


further deep dive investigation into what was going on, particularly


since the current chairperson is not prepared to acknowledge that he did


anything wrong, that he was not part of the problem and, in my opinion,


quite honestly, should call? I think we need to reflect on all of the


conclusions that you reached that were accountable to you and in your


report on this issue that that would then go to the Minister, not only to


myself but, at that stage, when you make your recommendations, those


that we financially consider, my advice, at the present time is that,


my judgement is, that we have investigated to inappropriate and --


to an appropriate stage. The Social Development Minister has


told the Assembly that the restructuring of the Housing


Executive in Northern Ireland is in no way predetermined. Nelson


McCausland also explain the new form of registration for landlords during


Question Time today. Immediately following my statement in February


on the proposals, I met with the Housing Executive board and the


chief Executive to agree how we could work together to allay staph


anxieties throughout the process. My officials have met and will continue


to meet with trade unions to ensure staff concerns are raised and keep


them as up-to-date on an ongoing basis. With regard to tenants, I


have a meeting scheduled with the network established to make sure


that tenants have a meaningful involvement. Can ask the Minister if


you can reaffirm his previously stated commitment that there will be


no predetermined outcome to the future of the Housing Executive?


my original statement, I set out a general direction of travel. The


details of all of this has still to be worked out. There is a lot of


work to be done about getting business case is prepared, to look


at various options. There will have to be detailed discussions with


attentional funders to see what the best model would be. Therefore,


there is nothing predetermined at the moment. They are looking at a


direction of travel but nothing else. I informed the Assembly on the


15th of January 2013 that it was intended that a landlord


registration system would be ready by the summer. While thermal be --


may be slippage, work is well underway on the design of the system


and a final decision on who will act as the registrar should be made very


soon. Can I ask the Minister what specifically is the calls of the


delay? -- the cause. The civil servants who are working on these


working very hard on them. Like most things in life, it is always very


difficult to predict exactly, down to the weeks or days, how long it


will take to complete a piece of work. I'm sure the member, in all


his years of business and other areas of life, will have found his


own experience of that fact. The Bangor town Centre master plan


produced to lead a major develop meant scheme was needed to


regenerate the town centre. Schemes of this size and ambition are


complex and challenging to deliver. A number of key steps need to be


taken. The first is to assemble the site. My department has completed


the first major step by agreeing to purchase the developer's land.


Following completion of the sale, my officials will speak to the


remaining property owners within the proposed boundary to discuss our


plans for the area and to negotiate the purchase of these properties.


Work will also be commenced on the planning application, taking


approximately two years. Following approval, it will take another two


to three years to complete the design and bring on board a contract


to construct the scheme. If all progresses smoothly, construction


will commence in 2018. The social -- the Social Development


Minister. Just before we go, the otherwise businesslike atmosphere


today was treated by his accession of politicians getting their


transitory twist. Danny Kennedy referred to the Republic as the Free


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers 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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