MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
WEDNESDAY, 4 JuLY 2007
Room 152, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (Chairperson)
Mervyn Storey MLA (Deputy Chairperson) Roy Beggs MLA
Dr Stephen Farry MLA
Simon Hamilton MLA
Fra McCann MLA
Adrian McQuillan MLA
Declan O’Loan MLA
Peter Weir MLA
Shane McAteer (Assembly Clerk)
Vivien Ireland (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Colin Jones (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Paul Woods (Clerical Supervisor)
Mary Thompson (Clerical Officer)
Jennifer McCann MLA
Dawn Purvis MLA
The meeting commenced at 10.07am in open session.
Apologies are detailed above.
Draft Minutes of Proceedings 27 June 2007
Agreed: for publication on the Assembly website.
Agreed: that the Committee’s deliberations on the second draft of its report on Workplace 2010 and Location of Public Sector Jobs and on its draft submission to the Varney Review will be held in closed session.
Agreed: that information provided by the Department of Finance and Personnel in relation to Workplace 2010 office accommodation will be shared with the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
Agreed: that the submission to the Minister regarding the consultation on Statutory Legacy will be issued as amended.
The meeting continued in closed session at 10.17am.
Consideration of 2nd draft report on Workplace 2010 and Location of Public Sector Jobs
The Committee undertook a paragraph-by-paragraph consideration of its second draft report as follows:
Paragraphs 1 - 2 were agreed.
Paragraph 3 was agreed subject to minor amendment.
Paragraphs 4 - 20 were agreed.
Paragraph 21 was agreed subject to the addition of the following sentence to the end of the paragraph: ‘Also in terms of future accommodation provision, the Committee expects that in the consideration of the Workplace 2010 accommodation options, equal office accommodation standards will apply.’
Paragraph 22 was agreed.
Mr Storey left the meeting at 10.50am.
Paragraph 23 was agreed subject to the addition of the following sentence to the end of the paragraph: ‘In this regard, the Committee believes that, in examining the PFI option for WP2010, consideration should also be given to the scope for retaining more of the properties in public ownership.’
Paragraphs 24 – 28 were agreed.
Paragraphs 29 – 40 were agreed.
Paragraph 41 was agreed subject to minor amendment.
Paragraphs 42 – 45 were agreed.
Paragraph 46 was agreed subject to minor amendment.
Paragraphs 47 – 50 were agreed.
Paragraph 51 was agreed subject to the second sentence being amended to read as follows: ‘In this regard, the Committee believes that an external audit should be undertaken once projects have been operational for a sufficient period of time to determine the extent to which projected performance and value-for-money are being achieved.’
Paragraphs 52 – 55 were agreed.
Paragraph 56 was agreed subject to minor amendment.
Paragraphs 57 – 60 were agreed.
Paragraph 61 was agreed subject to minor amendment.
Paragraph 62 was agreed.
Paragraph 63 was agreed subject to the first sentence being amended to read as follows: ‘This Committee concurs with this conclusion and recommends that the Department and the wider Executive implement the recommendation by the Committee on the Programme for Government, to develop an affirmative policy for the dispersal of public sector jobs, which ensures the capacity of the public sector to deliver a range of services efficiently and effectively, through a sustainable approach, and implemented ‘for the benefit of the whole of NI, as a matter of priority’.’
Paragraph 64 – it was agreed that this paragraph would be replaced with the following:
‘The Committee has considered the statistics on public sector jobs location and notes the following facts, which are based on an analysis of figures for the areas outside the Belfast District Council Area (DCA):
- 42% of NICS posts are located outside the Belfast DCA;
- 85% of NICS staff reside outside the Belfast DCA;
- 84% of the NI working age population reside outside the Belfast DCA.
The Committee does not believe that these statistics represent evidence of the existence of a strategic distribution of NICS jobs across NI. The Committee is also aware that there is a wide variation in the distribution of public sector jobs among travel-to-work areas, district council areas and constituencies in NI. I n echoing the call for an affirmative policy on dispersal, the Committee contends that this policy should not be framed simply in terms of the demographics of public sector jobs location or the need to transfer jobs outside the Belfast area. Rather, a strategic approach is required – in terms of the locations selected, the number, types and grades of jobs, and the functions or business units to be relocated – to maximise the benefits throughout NI. The Committee further believes that the Department, in categorising the location of offices within the public sector, should accurately reflect geographic reality.’
Mr Storey returned to the meeting at 11.16am.
Paragraphs 65 – 78 were agreed.
Paragraph 79 was agreed subject to the full title of the Lyons Review being inserted.
Paragraph 80 was agreed subject to the whole of the paragraph being in bold font.
Paragraphs 81 – 88 were agreed.
Agreed: that the key conclusions and recommendations, highlighted in bold text in the ‘Consideration of Evidence’ section, will be reproduced at the beginning of the report for presentational purposes.
Executive Summary was agreed.
Appendices were agreed subject to the following paper being added to Appendix 4 - AQW 826/07.
Agreed: that the extract of the unapproved minutes of proceedings of today’s meeting will be checked by the Chairperson and included in Appendix 1.
Agreed: that the report, as amended, will be the First Report of the Committee for Finance and Personnel to the Assembly.
Mr Beggs left the meeting at 11.25am.
Consideration of draft submission to Varney Review of Taxation Policy
Members noted the additional information from Mike Smyth to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment on the Varney Review.
The Committee undertook a paragraph-by-paragraph consideration of its final draft submission to the Varney Review as follows:
Paragraphs 1 - 7 were agreed.
Mr Beggs returned to the meeting at 11.27am.
Paragraph 8 was agreed subject to minor amendment.
Paragraphs 9 – 12 were agreed.
Paragraph 13 was agreed subject to the second sentence being amended to read as follows: ‘In the view of the Committee, there is a range of options open to the Executive, not least the fact that, if NI achieves a lower rate of corporation tax, there may be potentially significant savings from efficiencies (building upon the present 3% across-the-board efficiency savings target) and as some of the current economic policies may no longer be relevant.’
The meeting continued in open session at 11.27am
Briefing from Minister for Finance and Personnel on DFP Priorities
Members were briefed by the Minister for Finance and Personnel Rt Hon. Peter Robinson MP, MLA and the Department’s two Permanent Secretaries, John Hunter and Bruce Robinson. The Minister provided an overview of the strategic priorities for his Department.
The meeting continued in closed session at 12.30pm.
Consideration of draft submission to Varney Review of Taxation Policy
The Committee continued to consider its final draft submission to the Varney Review as follows:
Paragraphs 14 – 18 were agreed.
Paragraph 19 was agreed subject to minor amendment.
Paragraphs 20 -21 were agreed.
Paragraphs 22 and 23 were agreed subject to minor amendment.
Paragraphs 24 – 28 were agreed subject to the options outlined in ERINI’s paper being indented and included in paragraph 24, rather than being set out in separate paragraphs. A sentence will also be added to state that, ‘The Committee noted the variety of options presented by ERINI’.
Paragraphs 29 – 35 were agreed subject to re-numbering.
Paragraph 36 was agreed subject to re-numbering and a minor amendment.
Paragraphs 37 - 44 were agreed subject to re-numbering.
Paragraph 45 was agreed subject to re-numbering and minor amendments.
Paragraph 46 was agreed subject to re-numbering.
Paragraph 47 was agreed subject to re-numbering and insertion of bullet points.
Agreed: that the submission, as amended, will issue to the Varney Review as a further submission from the Committee for Finance and Personnel and will be published on the Assembly’s website.
Mr McQuillan left the meeting 12.57pm.
Possible topics for future Committee Inquiry.
Members identified the following broad subject areas for a possible future Committee Inquiry:
- Management of public finances, including underspend in government departments;
- Economic, social and environmental benefits of public sector jobs dispersal;
- Rate Reliefs.
Agreed: that the timetable for any future Inquiry will be subject to the Committee’s commitments on the Budget and legislation and that the Committee will reconsider this issue after summer recess.
Members noted the following correspondence received:
- Mr E Cooke: Domestic Rating in Northern Ireland;
- Chairperson, Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure: Development of Multi-Sports Stadium at Maze/Long Kesh site;
- Mark Prentice: Role of Natural Gas in N Ireland’s Energy Mix; and
- DFP: Rating of Unoccupied Non-Domestic Properties.
Draft Press Releases
Agreed: that the press release on the submission to the Varney Review will issue forthwith subject to some minor amendment.
Agreed: that the press release on Workplace 2010 and Location of Public Sector Jobs will issue on the evening of the 9 July 2007.
Any Other Business
Members were advised to complete and return the questionnaire from the Committee Secretariat as soon as possible.
Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 5 September 2007 at 10.00am in Room 152 Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.17pm.
Mitchel McLaughlin, Chairperson,
Committee for Finance and Personnel.
5 September 2007.