Northern Ireland

Nelson McCausland in Red Sky intervention

Red Sky office
Image caption The Housing Executive terminated all its maintenance contracts with Red Sky

The social development minister has asked the Housing Executive not to suspend its contract with one of its main repair contractors Red Sky.

Earlier this year the Housing Executive terminated all its its maintenance work with the east Belfast-based company.

Red Sky carried out maintenance jobs on most Housing Executive properties in the city.

Nelson McCausland has now asked the executive to let the contract run for another eight weeks.

The Housing Executive ended all its repair contracts with Red Sky in April after it carried out an investigation into its work practices which included allegations of over-charging.

It gave the company three months notice. The contract had been worth £8m a year.

Red Sky strenuously denied the allegations saying they were "without substance".

A short time later, the contract was terminated and Red Sky went into administration.

Meeting requested

Some politicians including the DUP's east Belfast MLA Robin Newton expressed concern about the potential loss of 400 jobs at the company.

Chris Lyttle from the Alliance Party has sought an urgent meeting with Mr McCausland over the suspension.

He said: "We have written to the social development minister on a number of occasions and requested an urgent meeting with him, a number of days ago, on behalf of workers who have at no point received sufficient information on this matter.

"I hope it will be possible to meet with the minister as soon as possible to progress this situation."

On Friday the DUP minister Mr McCausland said because of a number ongoing internal investigations at the Housing Executive, he had significant concerns about the contracts process there.

He has asked the Housing Executive not to terminate its contract with Red Sky and to suspend any action to appoint alternative contractors.

In response, the Housing Executive said it had received no written instructions relating to the matter.

"Our commitment to address any failures in contract management has been clearly demonstrated recently with our robust actions against contractors and staff," it said.

"We are committed to provide the best service for our 90,000 tenants and to ensure best value for public money.

"We will of course ensure that our maintenance service operates during the period of the investigation commissioned by the minister."

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