HC Deb 17 October 1995 vol 264 cc213-4W
Mr. Bellingham

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made in establishing the Northern Ireland Health and Social Services Estates Agency. [37875]

Mr. Moss

I am pleased to announce that the Northern Ireland Health and Social Services Estates Agency was established as an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Services on 2 October 1995, under simplified next steps procedures.

The agency is the principal source of expertise available to health and personal social services managers in all aspects of an estate which comprises some 427 sites covering approximately 1200 hectares throughout Northern Ireland. The agency has 127 staff, the majority of whom are within professional estates disciplines. The range of estate services which the agency will provide includes policy and strategic advice to the Department, as well as project sponsor support, planning, project management and design and consultancy services for health and personal social service bodies generally.

I have delegated full managerial authority for the agency's day-to-day operation to its chief executive. A ministerial advisory board will enable me to ensure public accountability for the performance of the agency. The policy and resources framework of the agency is set out in its framework document, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House.

In addition, I have set challenging targets for the agency in its first six months of operation. These are as follows:

Financial management To manage the agency's resources so as to deliver the business plan within a total budget of £2.156 million; To deliver efficiency savings of 4 per cent. and to develop a programme of efficiency reviews to ensure that the most efficient and effective use is made of the agency's resources. To develop a programme for the development and implementation of resource accounting system by 31 March 1996; To develop service level agreements with client bodies and broad assessments of the prices to be charged for each of these packages of services by 31 March 1996.

Efficiency of services To continue the continuous market test of the design and consultancy function of the agency ensuring a 3 per cent. increase in achieved surplus of £368,000 over the previous market testing period.

Delivery of services

To have in place a service level agreement with the Health and Personal Social Services Management Executive for the provision of agreed services by 31 March 1996. To complete by 31 March 1996 a comprehensive survey of client satisfaction with the type and quality of the agency's services. This survey will provide the baseline against which future client satisfaction levels will be measured. To ensure that the following programme of work is completed: Issue of 70 guidance papers on matters of general safety as well as specific guidance on fire safety in residential care premises. Completion of the design and achievement of "practical completion" in respect of 25 schemes valued at £7.5 million. Completion of business cases for schemes with a value of £48 million. Completion of planning of two schemes with a value of £74 million.