MINUTES OF THE SEVENTY FIRST MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION HELD ON TUESDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2011 AT 12.30PM IN ROOM 106
Mr Peter Weir
Mr Pat Doherty
Mr Pat Ramsey
Mr Sean Neeson
Rev Dr Robert Coulter
In Attendance: Mr T Reaney, Mr T Logue, Mr R Stewart, Mr J Stewart, Mr S Welch, Mr A McQuillan, Mr R Ramsey, Ms C Dodson and Mrs C McGowan.
1. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
The Speaker sought any declarations of interest from the Commission in relation to items of business being discussed. None were declared.
2. MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING
The minutes of the 25 January 2011 were agreed without amendment.
3. MATTERS ARISING
3.1 Election Planning
The Director of Clerking and Reporting provided an update in relation to work to date in preparation for the election on 5 May 2011. He informed Members that meetings were ongoing with Parties in relation to the tasks that need to be undertaken and to date two main issues have arisen in relation to the use of ICT in constituency offices during dissolution and issues connected to the payments of existing contracts from OCA/Winding Up Expenditure. The Director of Resources outlined the basis for Winding Up Expenditure and its role in addressing any financial commitments continuing past the election date.
Mr Neeson MLA joined the meeting.
The main ICT issue related to the extent of retention of ICT equipment in constituency offices during the period of dissolution. Mr Stewart highlighted that all computer equipment was required to be returned for cleansing and upgrading purposes and to allow for an effective and efficient service in preparation for the beginning of the new Mandate. He confirmed that the work had been scheduled to take place during the dissolution period. Mr Stewart also highlighted that failure to complete the process during dissolution would result in delays to Members receiving ICT equipment, within their constituency offices, for the start of the new Mandate.
The Commission discussed the need to find a practical and balanced approach to the matter to allow for all Members to continue to provide their constituency services and to have available all the necessary IT equipment required for the new Mandate. It was agreed that Mr Stewart would seek to ensure that a workable solution was achieved, in advance of election planning guidance issuing to all members. It was further agreed that Mr Stewart would provide an update to the next meeting.
Mr Stewart also noted the potential for reputational risk to the Assembly Commission arising from any suggestion of an excessive supply of ICT during the dissolution period. Members noted the existing requirement to ensure that all Assembly resources were used exclusively for Assembly duties.
3.2 New Assembly ID Pass System
The Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House revisited a paper presented at the last Commission meeting relating to the introduction of an Assembly wide pass system to monitor and control access of building users, including visitors to Parliament Buildings. Mr Welch highlighted the weaknesses of the current system and the benefits to the introduction of the new system including issues relating to health and safety monitoring for evacuation purposes. Mr Welch also informed the Commission that he had investigated the timeframe for processing larger groups visiting Parliament Buildings and reported that children and young adults would not be required to wear photographic passes but that the teacher/s accompanying those groups would be processed at a rate of approximately one adult every 20 seconds.
Following further discussion in relation to concerns highlighted by Members, the Commission agreed to proceed with the development of the system for all Visitors, Secretariat and Party staff and incorporate the proposal within the new Security Management System. It was also agreed that further work was required on introducing the system for MLAs.
3.3 Hansard Bound Volumes
The Director of Clerking and Reporting provided a review of the paper submitted to the previous meeting of the Commission relating to the findings of a review of Bound Volumes of the Official Report and agreed to:
- The provision of a robust, sustainable and accessible archive that includes bound volumes;
- The provision of two bound volumes per Party Group, an increase from 7 to 14 as previously set out in the list appended to the original paper.
- The provision of only enough copies of Bound Volumes as are required for archival purposes and that Members who wish to have copies would do so on a subscription basis; and
- Ongoing monitoring by the Office of the Official Report (Hansard) of Bound Volumes provision with a formal further review in 2013.
It was further agreed that the Speaker would write to all Members to advise them of the Commission’s decision.
3.4 Car Parking-Update
The Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House informed the Commission that discussions were continuing with DFP colleagues in an attempt to resolve the problems of the car parking pressures for users of Parliament Buildings. He reported that DFP had agreed with two low cost pilot schemes as a possible means of increasing car parking space for staff.
Mr Welch confirmed that the first scheme would commence on Monday 14 February 2011 and would involve the temporary transfer of daily management of the lower East car park from DFP to Assembly Security staff. He further advised that a second scheme would simultaneously be put in place to provide a ‘park and ride’ system using the DFP car park at Rosepark House, Upper Newtownards Road. He also advised that plans were under consideration to increase the number of marked out spaces by up to 40 in the lower east car park, at a minimal cost.
Mr Welch further highlighted that in the longer term, he would explore the option of assuming ownership of the Lower East Car Park on transfer from DFP. The Commission also agreed that should this be transferred, that a feasibility study should be conducted to explore the possible future expansion of the car park, subject to statutory approval and funding.
4. NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY SPENDING REVIEW 2010
4.1 Revised Resources Expenditure Profile
The Clerk/Director General reported that the Commission had considered and agreed the revised resources expenditure profile which represented an overall cost reduction, in real terms, of 17% including a 20.5% real cut in Secretariat Costs. He reported that this equated to a cash cut of £4.32m by the end of the CSR period and that the agreed budget had issued to the Minister of Finance.
The Clerk/Director General drew members attention to the series of assumptions which had been outlined against several expenditure categories and which for the majority, would transfer to the responsibility of the Independent Financial Review Panel upon their establishment. The Commission also noted that negotiations were due to commence with TUS in relation to the pay and grading exercise and outcomes would be presented to Commission Members prior to 31 March 2011.
The Speaker and Commission Members paid tribute to the Clerk/Director General and his staff in taking forward this challenging exercise. The Clerk/Director General expressed appreciation for the support of Members in bringing the matter to a conclusion.
4.2 Revised Capital Expenditure Profile
The Clerk/Director General presented a revised capital budget for the Commissions consideration. The Clerk/Director General highlighted that the budget had been revised based on the Commission’s desire to place the minimum call on public finances in respect of capital expenditure.
The Commission agreed that the Director of Resources should include expenditure to allow for the development of ICT technology within Committee Rooms and the Chamber and that the revised schedule of capital requirements for the next four years should be presented to DFP as part of the Budget 2011-15 process.
Mr Weir left the meeting.
5. Any Other Business
5.1 Questions for Oral Answer on 8 February 2011
Mr Logue highlighted the questions and running order for oral questions to the Assembly Commission for response on 8 February 2011. It was agreed that Mr Neeson’s responses would be delivered by other Commission Members in his absence.
5.2 Correspondence from OFM/DFM
Mr Logue informed the Commission that the Speaker had received further correspondence from the Chairperson of the OFMDFM Committee in relation to the issue of how MLAs might be supported in legal matters. Following consideration, the Commission agreed that the Speaker should write to the Chairperson reiterating their previous position on the matter.
5.3 Support to the Assembly of Kosovo
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that the Director of Engagement had held preliminary discussions with NI-CO, an organisation dedicated to the pursuit of building efficient, accountable and sustainable public sector institutions across the world. The Clerk/Director General informed Members that NI-CO had identified an EU Commission funded “twinning " project to support the reform of the Assembly of Kosovo. He further highlighted that to be successful it would be necessary for the Assembly Secretariat to work with other EU countries or regions in a joint bid. The Commission endorsed the proposal and agreed that a bid should be developed.
5.4 Youth Assembly
Mr Logue provided an update in relation to work progressing to develop a Youth Assembly and informed Members that he had received a request from the youth panel to present to the Commission on work undertaken to date. The Commission welcomed this opportunity and agreed that the presentation should be arranged for March 2011.
5.5 Stationery Procurement Issues
The Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House informed the Commission of difficulties with access to the CPD Stationery framework contract. He highlighted that this would affect stationery supplies with the exception of paper over the next 2-3 weeks. The Commission raised concerns in relation to notification from CPD. Mr Welch informed the Commission that an interim procurement exercise would be initiated immediately and that a wider exercise would be undertaken.
6. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the Commission was agreed to take place on Tuesday 22 February 2011 at 2.30pm in Room 106.
Meeting finished at 2.05pm
Head of Commission Support and Compliance Unit