MINUTES OF THE SIXTY SECOND MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION HELD ON TUESDAY 29 JUNE 2010 AT 1.30PM IN ROOM 106
Mr Peter Weir
Mr Pat Doherty
Rev Dr Robert Coulter
Mr Pat Ramsey
Mr Sean Neeson
Mr T Reaney, Mr T Logue, Mr R Stewart, Mr J Stewart, Dr McGrath, Mr S Welch, Mr H Widdis, Mr A McQuillan, Ms S Lappin, Ms C Dodson and Ms C McGowan.
1. DECLARATION OF INTEREST
The Speaker sought any declarations of interest from the Commission in relation to items of business being discussed. Members declared an interest in relation to matters relating to the financial support and pensions for Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
2. CHAIRMAN’S BUSINESS
2.1 New Appointment of Commission Member
The Speaker welcomed Mr Peter Weir to his first meeting as a Commission member and wished him success in the position.
2.2 Vacancy on the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee (SARC)
The Speaker highlighted a vacancy arising following the resignation of Mr Moutray, who represented the Commission on the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee. Following consideration, it was agreed that Mr Ramsey would take on the position and the relevant induction process would be initiated.
3. MINUTES OF MEETINGS
The minutes of the meeting held on the 21 June 2010 were agreed without amendment. The minutes of the meeting held on the 22 June 2010 were agreed with a minor amendment to Item 10.
4. MATTERS ARISING
4.1 NICS Equal Pay Settlement
The Speaker invited the Director of Resources to provide an update in relation to details of the proposed resolution of the equal pay issue within the Assembly Secretariat and the likely financial impact during the 2010/11 financial year.
Following consideration it was agreed that the equal pay settlement would include direct recruit secondees and old style secondees/ temporarily re-deployed now employed by the Commission. It was further agreed that work progresses in arguing the case with DFP that those staff who have left the Assembly Secretariat would not suffer financial detriment as a result of working in the Assembly between 1 June 2008 and 31 January 2009.
The Commission approved the likely costs and the proposed pay scales as set out within the paper and agreed that the settlement is progressed as quickly as possible for the staff involved.
4.2 Update on Roof Refurbishment
The Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House provided Members with an update in relation to the refurbishment of the roof of Parliament Buildings and tabled a schematic which outlined accommodation proposals for the roof area. The Director highlighted that he would be submitting an Assembly wide accommodation plan to SMG and that the stage D report would be presented for consideration to a Commission meeting by December 2010.
Members noted the upcoming meetings to be held with officials from OFM/dFM and agreed that a range of proposals would be prepared for their consideration in relation to the feasibility of releasing accommodation within Parliament Buildings currently used by other bodies. It was further agreed that an outline accommodation plan would be forwarded to Mr Ramsey highlighting the details of current occupancy within the building.
The Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House also highlighted the proposed works to occur during the Summer Recess and it was agreed that further communication would take place with the Chief Whip of Sinn Fein. Mr Doherty also highlighted the continued difficulties with car parking on sitting days and expressed that consideration be given to making a formal request to DFP for taking ownership of the lower east carpark. The Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House informed the Commission that communication is continuing with DFP officials and that DFP were currently undertaking a review of parking facilities within the Estate which may highlight options for consideration in alleviating the problems. The Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House also informed the Commission that he was considering other options to offer a solution and he would be submitting a baseline proposal on car parking issues to an early meeting of the Commission.
The Head of Legal Services provided Members with an update in relation to current litigation against the Assembly Commission.
5. FINANCIAL SUPPORT AND PENSIONS FOR MEMBERS OF THE NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY
The Clerk/Director General spoke to a paper which provided the Commission with a range of options for progressing the reform of pay, pensions and financial support arrangements in light of the Commission Report not being put before the Assembly.
Following consideration, it was agreed to initiate further consultation with Party Leaders and Party Whips on the current Report to seek consensus to bring about interim reforms pending the establishment of the Independent Statutory Body. It was also agreed that the original paper which highlighted costs and savings in relation to Assembly allowances would be updated and communicated to Party Leaders and Whips as part of the consultation.
The Clerk/Director General also provided the Commission with an update in relation to the issues highlighted within the draft management letter from the Northern Ireland Audit Office. It was agreed that once finalised that the management letter and associated audit report would be issued to the Commission for their information.
Members also considered the ongoing work in relation to the establishment of the Independent Statutory Body and agreed that consultation process should progress. The Commission also agreed that the procurement process for independent valuations in relation to constituency offices should be deferred pending consideration by the Assembly of a report on Financial Support for Members.
The Commission also agreed that in light of the difficulties to date, a paper should be prepared for their consideration in relation to the issues of communication, consultation and decision making.
6. DRAFT VETTING POLICY
The Head of Human Resources provided Members with a background to the formation of the draft Vetting Policy. Following consideration, Mr Doherty requested further time for his Party to consider the detail of the policy. It was agreed that Sinn Fein would provide a written submission to the Head of the Commission Support and Compliance Unit. The Clerk/Director General assured Members that if amendments were made that the draft policy would be brought back for further consideration by the Commission.
7. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
The Director of Resources provided Members with an update in relation to the budget position following on from the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s speech on 22 June 2010. Following discussion it was agreed that a efficiency proposal paper would be submitted for the Commission’s consideration following Summer Recess.
Mr Ramsey left the meeting.
7.2 Public Attitude Survey
The Director of Engagement provided Members with an update in relation to the Public Attitude Survey. Following a brief discussion it was agreed that the Commission would give final consideration to the matter at their next meeting following the Summer Recess.
8. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the Assembly Commission to be convened in September 2010. Time and date to be confirmed.
The meeting ended at 3.30pm
Clerk to the Assembly Commission