MINUTES OF THE FORTY SECOND MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION HELD ON TUESDAY 2 APRIL 2009 AT 4.30PM IN ROOM 106Present:
Mr Stephen Moutray
Mr Paul Butler
Rev Dr Robert Coulter
Mr Alban Maginness
Mr Sean Neeson
Mr T Reaney, Mr T Logue, Mr S Welch, Mr R Stewart, Mr J Stewart and Ms C McGowan.
1. CHAIRMAN’S BUSINESS
The Speaker sought any declarations of interest from the Commission in relation to items of business being discussed. All Members noted their interest in relation to being future recipients of the Pension Scheme. There were no further disclosures.
2. MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
The minutes of the meeting held on the 10 March 2009 were agreed with one amendment to Item 8.
3. MATTERS ARISING
3.1 Northern Ireland Assembly Pension Scheme
The Speaker reminded Members that they had agreed to give further consideration of the proposed changes to the Assembly Members’ Pension Scheme (NI) 2008. The Clerk/Director General provided a brief overview of the proposed changes and following consideration the Commission agreed:
- that the accrual rate for the Members’ Pension Scheme be increased from 1/50th to 1/40th of the final salary for each year of service, with effect from 1 April 2009; and
- that the higher accrual rate and increased Member contribution of 11.5% be accepted as the default position from 1 April 2009 with an opt-out for Members who wish to revert to the lower rate of 1/50th.
The Commission also agreed that to ensure that Members had sufficient information to make an informed decision and that a letter would issue, to all Members, detailing the changes.
3.2 Assembly Website Project
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that the general public information leaflet on the Assembly had now been translated and was available in ten different languages. He also advised that the translated documents are available on the Assembly web site.
3.3 NIA Internet Connection
The Director of Resources informed the Commission that staff from the IS Office had monitored connection speed in relation to the internet link and had found that speed was eight times faster as a result of the change over to the new connection.
3.4 SSRB Report - Update
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that officials were in the process of developing an Assembly Commission report which would reflect on previous discussions on the recommendations raised within the SSRB Review Report. He stated that he hoped to brief Commission Members after the Easter Recess with a view to holding further discussions with Party Leaders. Following that a final draft of the report will be presented to the Commission meeting on the 21 May 2009.
4. CLERKS MONTHLY REPORT
The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with an overview of his monthly report which detailed progress achieved in relation to each of the Commissions’ strategic objectives. The Commission agreed that from April 2009, the monthly report would be adjusted to reflect the revised Strategic Priorities in the up-dated Corporate Plan 2008-11.
The Clerk/Director General also notified the Commission that the revised Corporate Plan for 2008–11 had been screened in accordance with Section 75 guidelines and an Equality Impact Assessment was not required.
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that the new independent members of the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee, Mr Alan McQuillan and Mr Colm McKenna had completed their initial induction programme.
The Clerk/Director General drew Members attention to progress in relation to the recruitment programme and provided an update in relation to financial performance against budget. Rev Coulter suggested that information in relation to the indices used for the Retail Price Index be sent to all Members in order to detail the impact against rates payable under Office Cost Allowance (OCA) and Financial Assistance to Political Parties (FAPP).
The Clerk/Director General reported that initial feedback from the Engagement Strategy road show events had been very positive with two remaining events still to be delivered in Lisburn and Belfast. The Speaker and Mr Maginness commended Mr Eamon Mallie on his chairmanship of the panel sessions and the work of staff in arranging the events. The Clerk/Director General informed Members that the Director of Engagement would compile a full evaluative report, for consideration at an early meeting.
The Commission noted that the Member Survey Project Team had now commenced work on developing a Member Survey and an update would be provided at the next Commission meeting to include the tabling of the draft questionnaire for Members.
The Clerk/Director General concluded his summary report by informing the Members of a project developed by the BBC entitled Democracy Live, which provides a live stream of video coverage on a new BBC web site of all Parliaments and Assemblies in the UK and also the European Parliament. He informed the Commission that the project was scheduled to be launched in September 2009 and would complement the Assembly’s own web site and Engagement Strategy. The Clerk/Director General informed Members that the project was fully funded by the BBC with accommodation for 2 dedicated BBC staff being provided within the existing press facilities. Mr Moutray requested that the possibilities around the development of an Assembly TV Channel be explored by the Director of Engagement.
5. ACCOMMODATION STRATEGY
The Director of Properties provided the Commission with a progress update in relation to the Ormiston House site and actions achieved in relation to the strategic accommodation review. He informed the Commission that the Steering group had now met on 2 occasions and thanked Mr Neeson for his valuable advice and direction. The Commission noted that the space utilisation survey was now complete and that the architectural review work was progressing. The Director of Properties informed Members that an interim report would be made available, at the next Commission meeting, in the form of a presentation. He concluded by tabling a short paper in relation to the contingency planning exercise which outlined any appropriate and available office accommodation for rental within a 4 mile radius of Parliament Buildings.
6. SEPARATION PROJECT TEAM – TOR
The Director of Resources informed Members that a Project Team was being established to lead on the move towards separation in April 2010 and presented draft Terms of Reference (TOR) for consideration. The Director of Resources put forward a number of principles which would guide the work of the Separation Project Team.
1. Establish terms and conditions for Secretariat Staff designed to meet the unique business needs of the Assembly.
2. On the understanding that terms and conditions must reflect the business needs of the Assembly, the total package of terms and conditions would be no less favourable than at present.
3. That staff will remain within the existing Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (NI) arrangements.
4. That Assembly terms and conditions would be considered in the context of wider public sector settlements.
Following discussion in relation to the scope of the project and potential project constraints, the Commission agreed the draft Terms of Reference for the Separation Project Team and the principles as outlined above.
7. GOOD RELATIONS STRATEGY
The Clerk to the Commission drew Members attention to paper 8 which outlined the proposals for progressing the development of a Good Relations Policy and the associated implementation strategy.
Following consideration, the Commission agreed that a consultation workshop should be organised with relevant groups and individuals to outline the key issues surrounding the development of a Good Relations Strategy.
The Commission also agreed to the formation of an internal working group to lead on the development of a Good Relations Strategy and further agreed the Terms of Reference for the group.
8. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
8.1 Visit to Brussels
The Commission agreed to postpone the visit to Brussels until after the Summer Recess in 2009.
8.2 Commission Planning Workshop
The Clerk to the Commission informed Members that the next Commission Planning day had been arranged for the 17/18 June 2009 and he would organise for a full programme to be issued at the next meeting.
8.3 Loan of Artwork from Parliament Buildings
The Commission noted a request from DFP for the loan of several pieces of artwork from within Parliament Buildings and agreed that the Director of Properties should progress as appropriate.
The Clerk/Director General also informed Members that his office were in the process of preparing an options paper for consideration by the Commission in relation to the issue of Portraits and the future policy direction in this area.
9. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the Assembly Commission was agreed for Thursday 23 April at 1.00pm in Room 106.
The meeting ended at 6.04pm