Stop the privatisation of NIHE
By Daniel Waldron,
The recent scandal surrounding the Housing Executive has once again demonstrated the cosy relationship between the Stormont politicians and big business. BBC’s Spotlight programme alleged that, in 2011, a special advisor to Minister for Social Development Nelson McCausland tried to pressurise a DUP member of the Housing Executive’s board into voting against the removal of lucrative housing maintenance contracts from East Belfast firm Red Sky. It also alleged that Mr McCausland and First Minister Peter Robinson held a private meeting with the firm’s bosses, in breach of the ministerial code of conduct.
This was despite hard evidence that almost 25% of jobs carried out by the firm were not up to scratch, due to management’s determination to cut corners, and that Red Sky had overcharged the Housing Executive to the tune of millions, regularly claiming for work that simply wasn’t done – even maintenance of buildings that no longer existed! The best defence that Nelson McCausland can come up with is that Red Sky were simply the worst of a bad bunch and so shouldn’t be singled out! In total, around £18 million has been robbed from the taxpayer by overcharging housing maintenance contractors. Mr McCausland says the system is the problem. In a sense, we agree – housing maintenance should never have been sold off to private firms out for profit! We call for all jobs to be brought back ‘in house’ with union rates of pay.
It has been suggested that Red Sky was targeted for punishment for sectarian reasons because it had a predominantly Protestant workforce. This cannot be entirely discounted although no hard evidence to support this allegation has yet surfaced. The idea that the likes of McCausland and Robinson were intervening out of concern for ordinary Protestant workers, however, can be dismissed out of hand. The DUP and all the parties in the Assembly Executive have demonstrated an absolute disregard for the interests of working class communities – both Protestant and Catholic – by implementing a £4.3 billion hatchet job on public services at the behest of the Tories, gutting the local economy and leaving us with mass youth unemployment.
Allegedly, Red Sky’s managing director describes himself as a ‘political buddy’ of the DUP. It would be no surprise if some of the brown envelopes alleged to have been passed to Housing Executive officials from Red Sky also made their way into the hands of political figures. Following a meeting with representatives of double-glazing firm Turkington – whose boss is a public supporter of the DUP – Minister McCausland also suspended a major contract awarded to a competitor.
Allegations of corruption over Housing Executive contracts and questions over the relationship between politicians and wealthy developers remain unanswered. This is not the first time senior DUP figures have been embroiled in corruption scandals. There is no doubt, however, that they are not alone. All the main parties are reliant on donations from ‘sympathetic’ developers, contractors and business people who often expect something in return. The main parties here have worked together to keep large political donors anonymous, unlike in Britain. They are united in campaigning for a reduction in corporation tax which would transfer hundreds of millions directly from public services to the profits of big business.
The politicians are totally out of touch with working people. While demanding that workers tighten their belts, the MLAs voted themselves a £5,000 pay rise this year! They accept the dictatorship of the ‘market’ and represent the business interests who wine and dine them. We need to build an anti-sectarian party based on the working class with principled fighters as its representatives. The Socialist Party is funded solely by our members and supporters in the working class. Our public representatives live on the average industrial wage, donating the rest of their salary back to the movement. If you want to build a party that represents ordinary people, join the Socialist Party today!