MINUTES OF THE SIXTY FIFTH MEETING OF THE ASSEMBLY COMMISSION HELD ON TUESDAY 02 NOVEMBER 2010 AT 6.35PM 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 D Martin
Mr A McQuillan
Ms F Leneghan
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.
2. NORTHERN IRELAND ASSEMBLY COMMISSION SPENDING REVIEW 2010
The Clerk/Director General provided Members with an update on the work completed so far on the Spending Review 2010. The Clerk/Director General highlighted that considerable work had been undertaken to date in order to identify areas where savings might be made and, importantly, to assess the impact of any savings options on the delivery of services to the Assembly and its Members. He highlighted that as part of the approach of the SR 2010 exercise, all business areas within the Assembly Secretariat were asked to provide options for costs savings of 2.5% and 5% on the 2010/11 budget for the next four years and that a project team had been established to collate the findings.
The Clerk/Director General also highlighted the impact on the Commissions budget arising from the establishment of an Independent Financial Review Panel (IFRP) which would determine the salaries, pensions and allowances for Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and drew attention to the fact that the Commission would no longer be responsible for any of the determinations arising from the body and their subsequent financial impact. Mr Weir highlighted that it was important to emphasise this distinction and the resultant effect on the Commission’s budget across future years.
The Commission also considered the current levels of staffing vacancies within the Secretariat and the impact on assembly business and agreed that all competitions which had completed interview stage and where successful candidates had been selected should proceed to offers of appointment. It was further agreed that all pending competitions and interviews should not progress at this stage pending clarity on the outcome of the Spending Review. Mr Ramsey also highlighted the importance of the recent Pay and Grading exercise and it was agreed that the Report would be presented to the Commission at their next meeting to allow for the consideration of the proposed recommendations and any resultant budgetary impact .
Following further consideration of the range of upward pressures on the Commission over the next four years it was agreed that a further detailed paper would be provided for consideration to the next Commission meeting showing options and associated impact of real cuts of 3.25% per annum on Commission’s budget over the next four years.
3. PRIVATE MEMBERS’ MOTION- ASSEMBLY RUNNING COSTS
The Speaker informed Members that Mr Ramsey had agreed to respond to the Motion on ‘Assembly running costs’ tabled by the Rt Hon Mr Peter Robinson scheduled for Plenary debate on Monday 8 November 2010.
Mr Weir left the meeting.
Following discussion it was agreed that each of the Commission Members would be copied Mr Ramsey’s speaking notes to allow them to contribute to matters raised during the debate.
4. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
4.1 Health and Safety Matter
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that a small amount of asbestos had been detected in the roof area and that the area had been restricted. He informed Members that the asbestos was scheduled to be removed at the weekend and he would provide any further updates to the next meeting. Unfortunately this development had delayed the office move due to have taken place during the Halloween Recess.
4.2 Tender for the Broadcasting Contract
The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with an update in relation to the tender exercise for the Broadcasting Contract which was nearing completion and advised that a decision would be required in advance of the next Commission meeting. Members noted progress and asked to be informed of the outcome, once a decision had been taken.
4.3 Commission Report on Pay, Pensions and Financial Support
The Clerk/Director General sought the Commission’s approval to proceed with amending the Commission’s Report on Pensions and Financial Support for Members of the Assembly in particular relation to changes to the resettlement allowance. Rev Coulter informed Members that he was unable to obtain full party support as some members of his party had raised issues relating to the potential equality implications for the application of the resettlement allowance
Following discussion it was agreed that the resettlement arrangements would be revised to reflect the provisions below 10 yrs as agreed by the Commission at their last meeting and that the arrangements for over 10 yrs service would remain unchanged as outlined within the existing schedule. It was further agreed that once amended, the draft Report would issue to Party Leaders for their consideration and written confirmation would be sought from them to allow for presentation to the Assembly prior to Christmas Recess.
Meeting ended at 7.45pm
5. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
Tuesday 23 November 2010, 15 minutes after conclusion of the Business Committee.