MINUTES OF THE SIXTY SIXTH MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION HELD ON TUESDAY 23 NOVEMBER 2010 AT 2.45PM 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
Mr H Widdis
Mr A McQuillan
Ms F Leneghan
Mrs S McDonnell
Ms C McGowan
Ms C Dodson
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.
The Clerk/Director General also noted that he would be requesting that all officials with the exception of himself, the Director of Resources and Mrs McDonnell would leave the meeting during discussions relating to Pay and Grading.
The minutes of the meetings held on the 18 October 2010 and 2 November 2010 were agreed without amendment.
3. MATTERS ARISING
3.1 Commission Report – Financial Support and Pensions
The Speaker thanked Members for their contributions to the debate on Assembly Running Costs on the 8 November 2010 and during the passage of the Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Bill. Additionally the Speaker thanked Rev Coulter for moving the Pensions motion which provided the Assembly Commission with clear powers to make pension provision for the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, and ensure that the Assembly Commission has the necessary authority to make any further changes to the Assembly Members’ Pension Scheme which may be required in future.
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that a letter had issued to Party Leaders requesting written confirmation that they were satisfied with the content of the revised Report on Financial Support to allow for a Motion to be tabled prior to the Christmas Recess. The Clerk/Director General reported that only the Leader of the Alliance Party had responded to date. Commission Members agreed to follow up with Party Leaders.
It was agreed that following confirmation from Party Leaders, a Motion would be drafted and circulated to Commission Members for approval and subsequent signature to allow for consideration by the Business Committee.
The Clerk/DG drew attention to the scheduled RPI increase in OCA due on 1 April 2011 under the current determination. This increase would take effect in advance of any decisions by the independent panel. Members undertook to consider the matter at the next meeting.
3.2 IFRP Progress
The Director of Legal Services provided the Commission with an update in relation to the progress of the Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Bill which was currently progressing through the House.
The Director of Legal Services also informed the Commission that following agreement by the Assembly, an Ad-hoc Committee would be established to examine the Bill.
All Officials were asked to leave the meeting apart from Trevor Reaney (Director General), Richard Stewart (Director of Resources) and Sinead McDonnell (Head of HR).
4. Broadcasting Service
The Clerk/DG updated Members on progress regarding the broadcasting contract.
5. PAY AND GRADING REVIEW
Mr Stewart presented a paper which provided detail on the Assembly's Pay & Grading project and outlined a number of proposals arising from the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) Report.
Members discussed aspects of the PwC Report but considered they needed more information before any decisions could be taken. Officials advised that they would provide the required information for the next meeting of the Commission.
All officials returned to the meeting.
6. NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY SPENDING REVIEW
The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with a summary of the work undertaken during the Spending Review exercise and outlined a series of options for the Assembly Commission’s budget for the period from 2011 – 2015.
The Speaker informed the Commission that he had held a meeting with the Finance Minister on 23 November 2010 to discuss the current Spending Review exercise. Following discussion, the Commission raised concerns in relation to the approach being adopted by the Department of Finance and Personnel and sought further clarity regarding the constitutional position of the Commission.
The Commission agreed to continue to work on a budget which demonstrated an impact of real cuts of 13% on Commission’s budget over the next four years and that further paper information would be provided for the next meeting.
7. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
No further Items of Business were discussed.
Meeting ended at 5.10 pm
8. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
Time and date of the next meeting to be arranged.
Head of Commission Support and Compliance Unit