MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
WEDNESDAY, 27 FEBRUARY 2008
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)
Paula Sandford (Clerical Supervisor)
Mary Thompson (Clerical Officer)
Jennifer McCann MLA
The meeting commenced at 10.03 am in open session.
Apologies are detailed above.
Draft Minutes of Proceedings of 20 February 2008
Agreed: for publication on the Assembly website.
Members noted the outstanding requests for information from the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP).
Members noted that, subsequent to members’ concerns following last week’s briefing by DFP officials on procurement, the Clerk is liaising with DFP’s Departmental Liaison Officer on a standard approach to oral and written briefs for the Committee.
Following last week’s non-attendance by DFP’s Acting Budget Director to brief the Committee on the Capital Realisation Task Force Report, the Committee considered a draft letter to the Minister.
Agreed: that the letter will be issued as drafted.
Members noted that the briefing has been rescheduled for 5 March and that, as agreed by the Committee, DFP had been asked to provide a position paper on the Task Force Report, together with an explanation for the delay in placing the Report in the public domain.
Members considered a proposed letter to the Minister, asking that the Committee is consulted as early as possible on the future budget process.
Agreed: that the letter will be issued as drafted.
Progress Against Targets in DFP’s Business Plan 2007/08 and on the Development of DFP’s Corporate Plan 2008/11
Mr Weir joined the meeting at 10.09 am.
Dr Farry joined the meeting at 10.13 am.
The Committee was briefed by Bruce Robinson, Permanent Secretary; Jim O’Hagan, Finance Director and Emma Wilson, Corporate Services Group, DFP.
Agreed: that DFP will provide further detail on the targets listed as ‘likely to be achieved with some delay.’
Challenges Facing Land Registers
The Committee was briefed by John Wilkinson, Chief Executive, Land and Property Services; Patricia Montgomery, Chief Executive, Land Registers of Northern Ireland and Gerry McKenna, Director of Corporate Services, Land Registers of Northern Ireland.
Agreed: that further detail will be provided on the potential for Land Registers to assist in the identification of ownership of the 40,000 vacant dwellings highlighted in the Semple Review of Affordable Housing.
Challenges Facing Land and Property Services
The Committee was briefed by John Wilkinson, Chief Executive, Land and Property Services; Arthur Scott, Director of Rating Operations, Land and Property Services and Alan Bronte, Director of Valuation, Land and Property Services.
Dr Farry declared an interest as a member of North Down Borough Council.
Mr Weir declared an interest as a member of North Down Borough Council.
Dr Farry left the meeting at 12.20 pm.
Mr Storey left the meeting at 12.25 pm.
Agreed: that Land and Property Services will provide further details on the following:
- the cost of the private contractors employed due to difficulties with the housing benefit system;
- the procedure for Orange Order and other community halls to gain rate relief; and
- a detailed analysis of the arrears in rates collection, including write-offs and details of future action to be taken to reduce the arrears.
Agreed: that further follow up issues will be forwarded to Land and Property Services for a written response.
Potential Topics for Future Committee Inquiry
Members considered a paper detailing potential topics for a future Committee Inquiry.
Agreed: that the Committee’s initial focus will be on the future budget process and that the Committee will subsequently consider conducting an Inquiry into absenteeism in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS), once the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has completed its work in this area.
Agreed: that public procurement will also be prioritised for a potential Inquiry.
Agreed: that the timetabling of the future inquiries will take account of inescapable business and other pressures on the Committee’s work programme.
Agreed: that Assembly Research will be commissioned to assist in the development of scoping papers on the shortlisted options.
The Committee noted the following correspondence:
- Minister for Finance and Personnel: Response to the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development on the Committee’s Inquiry into Renewable Energy/Alternative Land Use;
- DFP: Response to the Committee’s queries on the SL1 for Energy Performance of Buildings;
- Climate Change Coalition Northern Ireland: request to brief the Committee;
Agreed: that the Coalition will be invited to brief the Committee solely on issues within the remit of DFP;
- Minister for Finance and Personnel: Update on Sickness Absence in the NICS;
- Invitation to Launch of UK Committee on Climate Change;
- DFP: Memorandum on the PAC Report on the Transfer of Surplus Land in the PFI Education Pathfinder Projects;
- DFP: Response to the Committee’s queries on DFP’s position on the February Monitoring Round;
- Northern Ireland Regional Area Networking: invitation to awareness day;
- DFP: response to Audit Committee on the appointment of auditors to the Northern Ireland Audit Office.
Committee Work Programme
Members considered the updated Committee work programme until Easter recess and noted the following:
- Sir David Varney had not yet responded to the Committee’s invitation to brief members on his current review of Northern Ireland’s competitiveness;
- the DFP briefing on the Performance and Efficiency Delivery Unit had been postponed until 9 April as officials will have more information available by this date;
- the Committee Stage of the Building Regulations (Amendment) Bill (NI) 2008 will begin on 5 March with a briefing from Assembly Research.
Mr O’Loan left the meeting at 12.56 pm.
Members considered and agreed a draft timetable for the Committee Stage of the Bill.
Agreed: a draft public notice for publication in relevant newspapers.
Agreed: that a visit to Land Registers will be arranged after the organisation has merged with Land and Property Services in April 2008 and that this visit will be in addition to the normal weekly Committee meetings.
Agreed: that the revised work programme will be published on the Assembly website.
Any Other Business
The Chairperson reminded members that he would address the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants at Parliament Buildings later that evening.
Date, Time and Place of Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, 5 March 2008 at 10.00 am in Room 152, Parliament Buildings.
The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at 1.03 pm.