Minutes of Proceedings
Date: Tuesday, 25 September 2012
Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings
Meeting began at 4.10pm
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. CHAIRMAN’S BUSINESS
2.1 “Perspectives On..” event
The Speaker highlighted the positive feedback that he had received in relation to the “Perspectives On the Ulster Covenant Event” which took place in Parliament Buildings on 24 September 2012 and thanked Commission Members for their support in agreeing a way forward on the question of Centenaries.
2.2 Meeting with Committee on Standards in Public Life
The Speaker thanked Members for their contributions during the recent meeting with the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
The minutes of meetings held on the 3 July 2012 were agreed.
4. MATTERS ARISING
4.1 Ormiston House – update
The Director of Facilities provided Commission Members with an update on the expressions of interest received in relation to the sale of the Ormiston House site.
4.2 Front Door Ramps – update
The Director of Facilities provided Commission Members with an update in relation to the work progressing at the front of the building. He informed Members that the east ramp had been completed and work was now progressing on the west side with completion estimated for the end of October 2012. The Commission agreed that following completion, an opening event should be held and invitations extended to relevant groups with mobility issues.
4.3 Roof – update
The Director of Facilities provided Members with an update in relation to the roof project. He informed Members that the project team was completing the final procurement stage for the design team and a further update would be provided to the next meeting.
4.4 Pilot Scheme on Electronic meeting packs – update
The Director of Clerking and Reporting provided Members with an update in relation to the pilot scheme on electronic meeting packs and informed Members that an evaluation report would be prepared for the next Commission meeting. The Director of Information and Outreach also highlighted the proposal to bring the scheme on electronic meeting packs in line with the notebook refresh project scheduled for implementation within the next financial year. Following further discussion in relation to the timeframe for bringing forward the project, it was agreed that Members would be provided by correspondence with a copy of the indicative timescales and schedule in relation to the implementation of the project. A paper on both projects will be brought to the next meeting of the Commission.
4. CLERK/DIRECTOR GENERAL KEY UPDATE REPORT
The Clerk/Director General provided Members with a brief overview of key issues contained within his update report, drawing Members attention to the following:
5.1 Commission Planning Day
The Clerk/Director General informed Members that a Commission Planning day would be scheduled for January 2013 to allow Commission Members an opportunity to review the implementation of the Corporate Strategy 2012/16 and that Members’ views would be sought on any strategic issues which they wished to be included on the agenda.
5.2 Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee
The Clerk/Director General asked the Commission to note that Mr Bernard Mitchell had taken up his appointment as an Independent Member of the Secretariat Audit and Risk Committee on 17 September 2012.
5.3 Litigation Update
The Director of Legal and Governance Services provided the Commission with an update on current litigation matters.
5.4 Management Accounts
The Director of Corporate Services provided the Commission with an update in relation to the management accounts for the two month period from April – August 2012 and highlighted that the Commission was operating within the Spending Review 2010 budget settlement and the agreed reduction in staff complement figures.
The Clerk/Director General also drew Members attention to the potential for further public sector expenditure pressures beyond the end of the current Spending Review period in 2015.
Mr Ramsey left the meeting at 4.30pm. Meeting was adjourned as Commission was inquorate. Meeting reconvened at 4.50pm on Mr Ramsey’s return.
5.5 Corporate Strategy 2012-16 – Organisational Redesign Strategic Work Strand
The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that a team had now been appointed to take forward the review of the Secretariat’s organisational structure and comprised of Ms Dianne Bevan and Mr Ken Hughes. He highlighted that an early meeting would be scheduled with the Commission as part of the team’s consultation process.
5.6 Business Continuity Planning
The Clerk/Director General asked the Commission to note that the Business Continuity arrangements at the Assembly were currently under review and that proposals would be brought to a future meeting of the Commission.
5.7 Replacement of Assembly Printers
The Clerk/Director General consulted the Commission in relation to the costs for the replacement of printer equipment in Parliament Buildings and constituency offices and it was agreed that procurement should proceed as outlined within the business case.
5.8 Provision of an IT network equipment maintenance and Support Contract
The Clerk/Director General consulted the Commission in relation to the costs for the provision of an IT network equipment maintenance and support contract and it was agreed that procurement should proceed as outlined within the business case.
5.9 Assembly of Kosovo- Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
The Clerk/Director General provided the Commission with an update on progress achieved following the signing of a MoU between the Assembly of Kosovo and the NI Assembly in March 2012. He highlighted that he and the Director of Information and Outreach had held meetings in Pristina during 14-17 September 2012 and that he had been invited as a guest speaker at the Third International Conference on Local Self-Governance organised by the Republic of Kosovo Ministry of Local Government Administration. Members highlighted their endorsement of the work being taken forward.
5.10 Summer Tours 2012
The Commission noted, with approval, that there had been a significant increase in the number of visitors availing of tours of Parliament Buildings during the summer recess period of 2012
6. BUSINESS EFFICIENCY REVIEW
The Clerk/Director General provided Members with a general update on the Business Efficiency Programme and sought the Commission’s views on a number of recommendations arising from the Business Efficiency Reviews of Security & Ushering and RaISe.
In relation to the Business Efficiency Review of Security & Ushering, the Commission considered the BEP recommendations and consultation responses and agreed to:
- defer consideration of operating efficiencies at the West Glen and West Door but re-visit the potential for savings if further budget pressures require and/or when practical access issues can be satisfactorily resolved. The Commission also noted that an externally led, independent security review had been completed and that it has not identified any risks as a consequence of the recommendations;
- reduce the level of usher cover on the first floor to one member of staff and to keep under review the impact of any unauthorised access to first floor catering facilities;
- undertake an assessment of a comprehensive access control system for Parliament Buildings and that a Business Case be prepared for the Commission’s future consideration; and
- consider the withdrawal of occasional patrols on the corridors outside the First Minister and deputy First Minister corridors in conjunction with the assessment of a comprehensive access control system.
In addition, the Commission also discussed a range of measures in relation to postal arrangements and agreed that:
- postal collections and deliveries to NIA offices should be reduced to once per day;
- ‘generic’ or non-specific information for Members delivered by Executive Departments should be displayed in an ‘information station’, placed prominently, e.g. at the rotunda, and Members given the option of taking a copy;
- all Members, political parties and non-NIA post should be franked or stamped prior to onward handling by NIA and that non-franked or non-stamped post should be returned ‘undelivered’ to the relevant office; and
- management should review the current postal guidance and provide clarity if required.
The Commission also considered the BEP recommendation in relation to the opening hours of Parliament Buildings and agreed with the principle that the opening hours should be reduced and that detailed proposals should be developed, in conjunction with the BEP review of events and their associated costs, for consideration by the Commission at a future meeting.
In conclusion, the Commission considered the BEP recommendation of the RaISe report which related to the library opening hours and agreed to close the library on Friday afternoons from 1.00pm on a 3 month pilot basis and to keep other possible reductions under review in line with the implementation of the other recommendations in the BEP report.
7. IFRP ANNUAL REPORT
The Commission noted receipt of the first annual report of the Independent Financial Review Panel covering the period from 1 July 2011 – 31 March 2012.
8. GOOD RELATIONS PUBLIC CONSULTATION FINDINGS
The Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit spoke to a paper which provided the outcomes arising from the Commission’s public consultation on the 2012-2016 Good Relations Strategy and included the Commissions responses.
Mr McElduff requested that the ‘Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta’ and ‘Tobal’ organisations be added to the existing Assembly consultee list for future consultations. Members also noted that the Draft Language policy would be considered at the next Commission Meeting in October 2012.
Following consideration, the Commission approved the consultation report and agreed that it should issue to consultees and be published on the Website.
9. 80th ANNIVERSARY OF PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
The Speaker’s Adviser spoke to a paper in relation to a range of additional proposals to mark the 80th anniversary of Parliament Buildings. Following consideration, the Commission agreed to the additional proposals and associated costs for events to be held on 16/17 November 2012. It was further agreed that the Members Dining Room and Bar would be open to the public on Saturday 17th November. The Commission also noted the Speaker’s intention to release a press statement highlighting the proposed events.
10. “PERSPECTIVES ON ..” PLATFORM
The Speaker’s Adviser spoke to a paper in relation to the development of a platform to capture the views of Members on historic anniversaries included within the “Perspectives On” series. Following consideration, the Commission agreed the proposed approach and confirmed that the film footage from the lecture on 24 September 2012 could be published on the new “Perspectives On” Webpage.
11. Correspondence from OFMdFM Committee (Committee Legislative Proposals)
The Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit highlighted an invitation from the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister to respond to a range of policy issues in advance of draft legislative proposals to update and reform the offices of the Assembly Ombudsman and Commissioner for Complaints (NIPSO). Following consideration the Commission agreed that many of the areas within the consultation document related to wider policy issues and that a response should issue to the Committee for the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister highlighting the Commission’s initial response to the governance elements raised within the consultation document.
12. Correspondence from IFRP
The Speaker informed the Commission that he had received an item of correspondence from the Chair of the Independent Financial Review Panel which related to a matter of compliance with the current Determination. Following consideration of the letter, the Commission agreed that to ensure independence, it would be appropriate for the Clerk/Director General to deal with the matter in his capacity as the Assembly’s Accounting Officer.
13. ANY OTHER BUSINESS
13.1 Visitor Support
Mr Ramsey raised some concerns regarding a recent children’s event in Parliament Buildings and sought consideration for the provision of support to assist visitors with additional needs from the lower car-park to the main building during adverse weather conditions. The Director of Facilities highlighted that the Assembly no longer retained a minibus provision but that he would happily speak to the Member to explore any additional support that could be provided.
14. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
23 October 2012 at 4.00pm in Room 106
Meeting ended at 5.20pm
Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit