‘More of the same’ from housing minister say PPR

By David Whelan

B y david whelan nbnjournalist@belfastmediagroup.com
A GROUP set up to fight for equal social housing has accused Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland of ‘more of the same tactics’ after a damning report into his conduct last week.
Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) said that the findings by the scrutiny committee only served to support information released by them in May which they say demonstrated the Minister “not only skewing new build housing to unionist areas of little need” but also presenting information to the Assembly “which hid the true extent of religious inequality”.
In May PPR claimed that the entire 2,4000 North Belfast housing waiting list is “95 per cent Catholic”, although these figures are not those reported by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE).
The group claims that the use of “self-reported” statistics using “perceived religious figures” led to the distortion of figures for those on the housing waiting list.
Calls for Mr McCausland to step down have been made after the scrutiny committee found “that the minister for Social Development deliberately misled the Committee for Social Development”.
The minister had previously claimed he “inadvertently (and) unintentionally misinformed” MLAs over public housing maintenance contracts.
The investigation was launched when it was discovered that Mr McCausland had sent letters to MLAs saying that he had met with the Glass and Glazing Federation to discuss the specifications of a major double glazing programme, when in fact the meeting was with Turkington Holdings, a major donor of the DUP.
“The Committee’s findings that Minister McCausland deliberately misled the committee is extremely concerning but unfortunately indicates more of the same tactics from the Minister, which residents in chronic need of social housing from North Belfast have been subjected to for some time,” said PPR director Dessie Donnelly.
“In May, PPR released information which demonstrated that the Minister was not only skewing new build housing to unionist areas of little need, but he was presenting information to the Assembly which hid the true extent of religious inequality.
“This cannot go on. The public deserves the truth about the actions of their Minister for Social Development. And regardless of the Minister’s future, the people in dire need of housing from North Belfast need a future.
“The future has to include a time-bound resourced strategy to address religious inequality in North Belfast.”
Mr McCausland, who has gone to ground since the findings were released, was defended by his party colleagues who described the committee as a “witch hunt”.

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