Socially aware: Catherine Murphy, Stephen Donnelly and  Róisín Shortall of the Social Democrats. The party has unveiled its housing policy ahead of the election. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Social Democrats have proposed a new department of communities, housing and planning, as a means of tackling the housing and homeless crisis. The(...)

The reduction in the number of departments was suggested during the Stormont House Agreement. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

The DUP First Minister Peter Robinson has formally named the nine new departments that will replace the existing 12 Northern Executive departments in (...)

Eric Pickles: since he became secretary of state for communities and local government, his life has been dominated by planning regulations. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/PA

Eric Pickles, an ebullient, often blustering Yorkshireman, was given two pieces of advice by his predecessor, Sir Robert McCrindle, when(...)