MINUTES OF THE FORTY SIXTH MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION HELD ON THURSDAY 18 JUNE 2009 AT 12NOON IN THE SLIEVE DONARD HOTEL, NEWCASTLE
Present: The Speaker
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 J Stewart
Mr R Stewart
Mr R Good
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. There were no disclosures.
2. MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
The minutes of the meeting held on the 21 May 2009 were agreed.
3. MATTERS ARISING
3.1 Childcare for Constituency Staff
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that he was seeking to meet with the Member who had initially raised the matter to discuss further and would report back to a future commission meeting.
3.2 Review of Members Financial Services Handbook
The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with an update in relation to the review of the Members Financial Services Handbook. He reported that a discussion document had issued to Party Leaders on the 4 June 2009 and that a follow-up meeting had been organised for the 25 June 2009 to discuss the issues raised within the document.
Members agreed that a further meeting of the Commission should be arranged following discussions with Party Leaders to discuss and agree the way forward in relation to Member’s financial services.
3.3 Policy on Portraits
The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with an update in relation to the commissioning of art, including portraits of former First and Deputy First Ministers and Speakers of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Following consideration of the matter, the Commission agreed that a budget limit of £5,000 should be applied to the purchase of any portraits and that a size estimate of approximately 25” x 35” should be applied. Where an existing portrait is being considered for purchase there would be flexibility in respect of the size but not the budget.
The Clerk/Director General highlighted that there were four portraits that were outstanding although an opportunity had arisen for the purchase of a portrait of the former First Minister, Rev Dr Ian Paisley within the agreed guidelines. The Commission approved the purchase of the portrait of the former First Minister and agreed that a tender exercise be initiated to commission the outstanding portraits.
The Commission agreed to give further consideration, at a later meeting, to the location for hanging the portraits when completed.
3.4 Equality Scheme – Screening Update
Mr Logue provided the Commission with an update on the policy audit and screening exercise on the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission policies. Mr Logue informed the Members that due to suspension the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission were currently behind other public authorities in the implementation of the scheme but that the Equality Commission had approved the timeframe proposed by the Assembly Commission.
Following consideration, the Commission agreed the draft timetable for undertaking the Equality Impact Assessments (EQIA) on the following policies:
- Engagement Strategy - Apr 2009 - Mar 2010
- Reward Policy /Terms and Conditions - Apr 2010 – Mar 2011
- Good Relations Policy - June 2010 - May 2011
- Recruitment Policy - Sept 2010 - Aug 2011
- Procurement Policy - Apr 2011 - Mar 2012
It was further agreed that a public consultation exercise would now be undertaken on the outcome of the screening exercise and the EQIA timetable.
4. CLERK’S MONTHLY REPORT
The Clerk Director General presented two monthly reports to the meeting for May and June 2009. Members noted the overview of the May 2009 report. The Clerk/Director General highlighted the continuing high quality and level of existing service provision within the Secretariat and drew Members attention to several key issues within the June 2009 report, namely:
The Director of Clerking and Reporting informed the Commission that due to an initial low response rate to the questionnaires, that the deadline of 29 May 2009 had now been extended. Members considered options for increasing the response rate from members and agreed that the Director of Clerking and Reporting might utilise weekly Party Group meetings as a vehicle to gaining information from members. Commission Members agreed to raise the matter with Parties and come back to the Director of Clerking and Reporting with an update.
Family Fun Day
Members noted the success of opening Parliament Buildings to the public in conjunction with the Family Fun Day for Children in Need on 25 May 2009.
The Commission noted the continuation of the recruitment programme and the number of new staff joining the organisation. The Clerk/Director General also advised Members of the on-going negotiations on the settlement of a fair pay issue.
The Commission also noted the current litigation cases ongoing against the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission. The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that he would ask the Director of Legal Services to provide an overview of the on-going cases at the September 2009 meeting of the Commission.
5. ACCOMMODATION STRATEGY – Theme B
The Director of Properties provided the Commission with an update in relation to theme B of the Strategic Review of Accommodation. He proposed three options to providing additional space for Committee meetings. The Commission discussed in detail issues relating to the cost and timescale for implementing each of the options.
The Commission emphasised its commitment to enhancing the existing provision and agreed that the Summer Recess period offered an ideal opportunity to undertake any change. The Commission further considered option 3 which proposed the re-configuration of the Members’ Reading Room adjacent to the Library. Following issues raised by Mr Maginness in relation to retaining the Members reading facility, it was agreed that the Director of Properties would explore the feasibility of dualling the purpose of the room and/or look at the possibility of providing a smaller private facility within the existing library to replace the existing Members’ Reading Room.
The Commission meeting was suspended for lunch followed by a presentation from Dorothy McKee Consulting on Section 75 and Disability Discrimination Order obligations. The Commission meeting was reconvened at 2.30pm.
The Director of Properties also informed Members that an opportunity had been identified to improve the existing accommodation provision in Parliament Buildings with the reduction in the size of the existing gents’ toilet adjacent to the Senate Chamber for the creation of an additional room. He proposed that the room would be ideally located for the use of the Education Officers. The Commission noted that this work could also be undertaken during the summer recess using the existing measured term contractor.
Following further discussion, the Commission agreed to progress with option 3 noting Mr Butler’s and Mr Moutray’s concerns regarding the costs involved in the conversion of Room 30. The Commission also approved the modification of the gents’ toilets on the ground floor.
6. EVALUATION REPORT FROM THE ENGAGEMENT ROAD SHOWS
The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with an update in relation to the formal evaluation of the nine Assembly road shows and drew Members attention to the recommendation to hold further road shows in the remaining ten constituencies over the next 6 – 9 months.
Members noted the attendance levels and format of the events and again commended Mr Eamon Mallie on his skilful contribution to the effective delivery of the road show events. Members also noted the feedback from both members of the public and from panel members and the main topics of discussion which arose during each event.
Following consideration, the Commission agreed to hold further road shows and it was agreed that the Director of Engagement would seek the Commission Member’s views on possible venue options for such events.
7. BUDGET 09/10
The Director of Resources spoke to a paper which detailed the proposed budget for 2009/10. The Commission noted the planned Resources and Capital requirements for the forthcoming year.
8. PERFORMANCE AGAINST CORPORATE OBJECTIVES 2008/09
The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with an update in relation to performance against corporate objectives for 2008/2009. Commission Members noted the detail of the monitoring report and the significant work undertaken throughout the year.
9. CORPORATE IDENTITY POLICY
The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with an update on work to date on the development of the revised Corporate Identity Guidelines. Following consideration of the corporate identity guidelines in relation to a range of Assembly publications, the Commission agreed that the Director of Engagement should meet with Members separately to seek their preferences on the way forward in advance of discussion at a future Commission meeting.
10. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
10.1 Commission Newsletter
The Commission considered a draft outline for a Commission Newsletter and agreed that the publication be produced in electronic format and issued to all members following future Commission meetings.
10.2 Monopoly Board game
Mr Logue informed the Commission that he had received a request from Hasbro to include Parliament Buildings in the board game, Monopoly. The Commission indicatd their approval but agreed that Mr Logue would check any legal infringements for the inclusion of the building within the game.
10.3 Ormiston PAD Update
The Director of Properties provided the Commission with an update in relation to the planning application for the Ormiston House site and agreed that a full report would be brought to the next meeting.
10.4 Print Contract – Consultancy Assignment
The Clerk/Director General advised Members that he had briefed the Commission in January 2009 that consultancy costs in relation to the print contract were likely to be above £50k. He confirmed that the final costs were above that threshold.
10.5 North South Parliamentary Forum
The Speaker provided Members with an update in relation to his discussions with Party Leaders on the development of a North South Parliamentary Forum and highlighted that he had been unable to obtain a consensus view from Party Leaders on the way forward. Following discussion, the Commission agreed to defer further consideration until after the Summer Recess and proposed that they would explore the matter further at a future meeting with the counterpart Commission in the Houses of Oireachtas.
11. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the Assembly Commission to be arranged for week beginning 29 June 2009 in Parliament Buildings.
The meeting ended at 3.25pm
Clerk to the Assembly Commission