HOUSING MINISTER MCCAUSLAND REFUSES TO RESIGN

DUP Housing Minister Nelson McCausland says he will not stand down over Stormont inquiry

DUP Housing Minister Nelson McCausland says he will not stand down over Stormont inquiry

THE DUP minister at the centre of allegations of political interference in the Housing Executive said he has no intention of standing down.

A Stormont Committee is to investigate the allegations made by a DUP councillor in this week’s BBC NI Spotlight programme.

On Thursday night, Nelson McCausland told the BBC he will not step aside as Social Development Minister during the inquiry

Mr McCausland denies he had ever sought to influence the awarding of contracts.

Speaking on the BBC programme The View, he said he had been vindicated “time and time again”.

Asked if he intended to stand aside during the investigation, Mr McCausland said: “It’s an absolutely bizarre suggestion.

“I have no intention of stepping aside from doing the job that I am doing, which is delivering a good outcome for tenants of the Housing Executive.

The Social Development Committee agreed to set up an inquiry into allegations made in the Spotlight programme broadcast on Wednesday.

The programme contained an interview with DUP councillor and Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) board member, Jenny Palmer, who said she was put under pressure by her party to change her vote at a Housing Executive board meeting.

Award-winning BBC Spotlight investigative reporter Mandy McAuley interviewed Jenny Palmer for the programme.

She said she was put under pressure by her party to change her vote at a Housing Executive board meeting.

The meeting was called in July 2011, to discuss the Housing Executive’s contract with the Red Sky maintenance company.

The £8m-a-year contract had been terminated four months earlier, amid allegations that the east Belfast firm had overcharged for carrying out work on NIHE properties.

The housing board was to vote on a request from Mr McCausland to extend the NIHE contract.

Ms Palmer told Spotlight that Mr McCausland’s political special adviser, Stephen Brimstone, phoned her ahead of the meeting and asked her to vote against the board’s decision to refuse Mr McCausland’s request.

She said she was “shocked” and told Mr Brimstone that she did not think she could carry out what he was asking her to do, because of her concerns over Red Sky’s performance.

Ms Palmer told the programme: “He (Mr Brimstone) said ‘the party comes first, you do what you’re told’, otherwise there’s no point in me being on the board, if I wasn’t prepared to do what they asked me to do.”

Mr McCausland denied that his special adviser had telephoned Ms Palmer at his request.

He said it was likely no-one would ever get to the bottom of the matter.

Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey is chairman of Stormont’s Social Development Committee which is to investigate the allegations made in the Spotlight programme

He told The View: “I think it would be very wise for the minister to consider where he sits at the minute.

“This is about public confidence – let’s get the inquiries underway and let people step aside if they think they are in the fire.”

 

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