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Management of travellers sites will not transfer to councils: Ritchie

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Minister for Social Development, Margaret Ritchie MLA today announced responsibility for Travellers’ Transit Sites will not transfer to local government control.

The transfer of responsibility for the provision and management of Travellers’ Transit Sites to the new local Councils was mooted as part of the roll out of the Review of Public Administration (RPA). However, the Minister has decided to allow the function to remain with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive following consideration of concerns raised.

Margaret Ritchie said: "I want to see local government strengthened through the RPA. The transfer of a range of regeneration and housing functions from my Department to local government control in May 2011 will extend and complement existing Council services.

"However, a number of organisations, including the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA), the Northern Ireland Housing Council and the Local Government Partnership on Traveller Issues, have expressed their desire to see the provision of Traveller’s Transit Sites retained by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. I have listened carefully to the arguments put by NILGA and the Housing Council, who have an in-depth understanding of the issue. I am now persuaded that they are right when they say that responsibility for Traveller Transit Sites should remain with a central authority.

"Today I am moving to reassure those who have made representations to me that I have listened and taken action. After serious consideration, I have decided that my Department and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive will continue to work together to look after the needs of the Travelling Community as one of the most socially excluded groups in Northern Ireland."

Notes to editors:

1. Minister Ritchie made the announcement at the official opening of the new homeless hostel at Bond's Hill.

2. Three areas of operational delivery will transfer to the new local Councils from DSD with four relatively small functions from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

The three DSD functions are:

  • work in tackling urban deprivation, primarily the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme;
  • work in town and city regeneration (operational delivery of physical development projects including comprehensive development, public realm and environmental improvement); and
  • local community development support.

The four NIHE functions are:

  • houses in multiple occupation;
  • housing unfitness;
  • the Living Over The Shop (LOTS) initiative; and
  • local energy conservation.

3. Travellers are one of the most socially excluded groups in Northern Ireland, suffering a range of problems many of which can be directly attributed to their poor living conditions. There are approximately 1,400 Travellers residing in Northern Ireland in various types of accommodation including standard social housing, Traveller specific group housing schemes and other less permanent modes such as serviced sites and transit facilities which cater for Travellers who lead an exclusively nomadic lifestyle.

4. The Housing Executive is responsible for the provisions and management of Traveller accommodation including permanent and temporary sites and the provision of effective support services which includes engagement with relevant bodies particularly those responsible for health and education.

5. News Media enquiries to DSD Information Office on 028 9082 9078 or 07792 150 486. Out of office please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699715440 and your call will be returned.