Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2007/2008

Date: Thursday, 24 January 2008

December Monitoring and Budget Issues

24 January 2008

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Mr David McNarry (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Dominic Bradley
Mr Francie Brolly
Lord Browne
Mr Kieran McCarthy
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Pat Ramsey
Mr Ken Robinson
Mr Jim Shannon

Witnesses:
Mr Anthony Carleton )
Mrs Coral Caves ) Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure
Ms Deirdre Lundy )

The Deputy Chairperson (Mr McNarry):
I welcome to the Committee Mr Anthony Carleton, Mrs Carol Caves and Ms Deirdre Lundy from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

Mr Anthony Carleton (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure):
Good morning. I thank the Committee for giving me the opportunity to attend today’s meeting.

First, I will update the Committee on the December monitoring round. I appeared before the Committee before Christmas to detail the Department’s requests to the Department of Finance and Personnel. I will go through the outcome of the monitoring round quickly.

There are four monitoring rounds every year, and December’s round is the third one. There were some reduced requirements totalling £1·050 million, and they were for an Ulster-Scots academy, the Integrated Development Fund (IDF) Spectrum Centre and the IDF If Walls Could Talk project.

There were also bids totalling £2·278 million, which included consultancy costs to help with the administration of the Northern Ireland Events Company (NIEC), and the Fisheries Conservancy Board (FCB) pension deficit wind-up costs. They also included some costs for the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) write-off regarding the electronic catalogue for Northern Ireland (eCATNI), which was previously capitalised, and some additional support for the education and library boards’ redundancy costs. All those bids were met by DFP.

Internal reallocations included additional elements to make up a fuller amount for FCB pension wind-up costs, and some additional funding for the Arts Council revenue costs of £220,000, and £75,000 towards consultancy costs for central procurement to help the council with its capital programme. There is some additional funding for Inland Waterways and Fisheries non-cash costs, and a further amount for the education and library boards’ redundancy costs, which we were also able to fund internally. There are then some smaller amounts for Linen the Hall Library, Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland (OSNI) and the House of Sport. That was the outcome of the December monitoring round.

The February monitoring round concludes on 7 February. February monitoring is slightly different; it is really the last opportunity to realign departmental budgets. However, because of the timing, the Department has put what are called spring supplementary budgets through to DFP and to Treasury, and they must be concluded in January.

With the February monitoring round, we have early engagement with DFP, and we will get an indication of what bids or surrenders are likely to be acceptable. In this case, the Department will more than likely be successful in securing additional funding of £925,000, the majority of which will be spent on additional book stock for libraries. It has also agreed to transfer some £300,000 to OSNI to help it with the purchase of some additional topographical equipment. Those matters were submitted to DFP on 16 January and will be concluded following the results of the February monitoring round, but the Department is fairly confident that the additional funding for book stock, which it welcomes, will be received. That concludes my update on the December and February monitoring rounds.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Will you deal with the draft Budget?

Mr Carleton:
Yes, I will, but I can deal with the monitoring rounds first, if you like.

The Deputy Chairperson:
OK.

Mr McCausland:
In the December monitoring round, the £700,000 for the Ulster Scots Academy was taken back. I want to place on record that that emphasises the imperative of the Department ensuring that the work to be undertaken by consultants in the next number of weeks is carried out as a matter of urgency. There must be no further delays, and we must ensure that the money that was committed to that project four or five years ago leads to delivery on the ground. The delays that have occurred, which have not been the fault of the Ulster-Scots community, are now becoming intolerable. I ask for a commitment that that work be taken forward as a matter of urgency and that it will be made a top priority by the Department.

The Deputy Chairperson:
That is a request for a commitment.

Mr Carleton:
My understanding is that, on the foot of the consultation that has closed, consultants have been engaged. This is a priority area for the Department, because, like everyone else, it wants the money that was set aside for the policy to be used in that policy area. Therefore, there is a commitment to push this matter forward.

Mr McCausland:
No consultants have yet been recruited.

The Deputy Chairperson:
None?

Mr McCausland:
No consultants have been recruited. However, the implementation group has agreed terms of reference that are to go out to tender, to some shortlist, and I ask that that be done as a matter of urgency and that those consultants are brought in as quickly as possible to get started, and that that work be done as quickly as possible.

Mr D Bradley:
I want to ask about the consultancy costs for NIEC, the Northern Ireland Events Company, which are shown under “Bids Met”. Can you explain exactly what was entailed?

Mr Carleton:
That is the cost of a range of specialist advisers, mostly from KPMG, who provide us with professional and expert advice in the area of insolvency-type practice. NIEC is a limited company and specific regulations govern the windup or review of a limited company. That is governed by company law. We needed the specific expertise. When a private-sector limited company finds itself in cashflow difficulties, it is normal to engage insolvency practitioners. KPMG is not engaged as insolvency practitioners because the company is not going insolvent because of the support that the Executive has offered; rather, it is to ensure that the legal process is fully complied with.

Mr D Bradley:
What was the total deficit of the company at 20 September 2007, when the Department became aware that it was in trouble?

Mr Carleton:
The shortfall in funding was of the order of £1∙2 million.

Mr D Bradley:
The Department follows that by spending a further £250,000 on a company that is on its way out?

Mr Carleton:
That is the case; however, we have to make sure, on behalf of creditors that proper process is undertaken, so that they are paid appropriately and efficiently. Were there any question of irregularity, the Department will have proper evidence to hand.

Mr D Bradley:
It this to conclude the forensic audit that the Minister told us he had initiated?

Mr Carleton:
This is part of the forensic audit.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Does any other member have questions to ask on the Northern Ireland Events Company?

Mr Brolly:
I have a question on the culture of consultants. Is there not good reason for the Department to have that kind of expertise in-house? People get large salaries and they are appointed because they give us CVs to show that they are experts in these matters. After a discussion like this, when he heard the kind of fees that these people command, someone asked: how do you become a consultant?

This is an issue, not just for DCAL, but in general. We should look at this carefully, instead of just spending £250,000 on a consultant, who will come back to us anyway to ask us all the questions. We will give him all the answers; he will come back and tell us all the things we knew in the first place; and he gets £250,000 for it.

Mr Carleton:
The DFP and the Committee for Finance and Personnel regularly examine the use of consultants. In this case, very specific advice on company law, and on the proper administration of a company in financial difficulties, was sought. The Department does not lightly employ consultants. However, the DFP and the Committee for Finance and Personnel is about to look specifically at the use of consultants.

Mr D Bradley:
Had the Department been properly implementing its role in this case, there would have been no need to spend that money. I asked a question about this and learned from the response that five months went by, during which the Department received no financial monitoring reports from the Northern Ireland Events Company. It did not seek them.

Perhaps, if the Department had better monitoring, we would not have spent that amount of money.

The Deputy Chairperson:
We all have grave reservations about what happened to that company, and, from the responses to members’ questions, it appears that a brick wall has been put up to stop us getting answers until the review has been completed. In consideration of that, Anthony, perhaps it would be better if the term “consultancy costs” were removed, because it does not seem to be the most appropriate portrayal of how that money is being spent. The Committee would appreciate a breakdown of those costs.

Mr Carleton:
Certainly.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Forensic audits and insolvency practices do not involve consultants. Will you explain the consultancy, and other, elements of your work? Members are perhaps being misled by the term “consultancy costs”, and it would help if that was explained in greater detail.

Mr Carleton:
I will send the Committee our definition of “consultant” and, therefore, the costs that we accrue under that heading.

The Deputy Chairperson:
With all due respect, it worries me if a Department — whether through you or anybody else — defines something as consultancy costs, which turn out not to be consultancy costs. Therefore, we must have an accurate description of those costs. The members of this Committee are pursuing an investigation into that company, and we are waiting for the Minister to lift the shutters and allow us to discuss it. How have those costs been apportioned? Who got what from the £245,000? I would appreciate it if answers to those questions could be treated as an urgent matter.

Mr Shannon:
On the same subject, Mr Carleton, in your reply to Mr Bradley, you mentioned that £1·2 million was outstanding from the wind-up costs for the NI Events Company. Are there any more creditors who have not been notified or demands for money from people other than those of whom you are aware? Is that the end to the outstanding costs?

Mr Carleton:
Without going into full detail, there is an issue about potential contingent liabilities, which are potential debts that the Department or the NI Events Company might challenge. Those potential liabilities are not included in the £1·2 million because we do not believe that there is a sound basis for such debts. I do not have the exact details, although, I know that there are contingent liabilities.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Perhaps we could wash up on that subject. If you can do so now, fine; however, will you confirm in writing that all the outstanding debts that we discussed with the Minister — including those to traders and groups that had not completed funding-application forms — are in hand and will be paid? The Minister assured us that they would be catered for, and we must know whether those figures are to appear in a red or a black column.

Mr Carleton:
I understand that all ordinary creditors have been accounted for, but I will confirm that.

The Deputy Chairperson:
You are using the term “accounted for”. We are hearing that they may have been accounted for, but may not have been paid.

Mr Carleton:
They have not been paid.

The Deputy Chairperson:
That should be addressed. The Minister said that they would be paid, and we do not wish to get into an argument about the length of a piece of string. It has been drawn to our attention that some people are in hardship and could do with the money because it is affecting their own solvency. Perhaps, therefore, you might deal with that.

Mr Carleton:
They have not been paid. I understand that they will be paid, but I will come back to the Committee with more information.

The Deputy Chairperson:
When will they be paid? Have the consultants been paid the £245 million? Has their money been held up, and will they have to wait?

Mr Carleton:
I do not know the answer to that.

Mr D Bradley:
Can we also find out whether there are any penalties outstanding from contracts entered into and not honoured — for example, events?

The Deputy Chairperson:
OK. This is an opportunity for the Committee to ask Mr Carleton those questions, and it shows our frustration. The Minister has closed the shutters on questions to him — written, priority written or otherwise. He has put up barriers and will not say anything until the review is complete. We hope that the questions that we are asking Mr Carleton will not be blocked in the same way, as there are things that we need to know.

Mr Brolly:
I contacted the Department with regard to payments before Christmas, and I was told that if creditors had not been paid before Christmas, they would be paid shortly afterwards.

Mr Carleton:
I will get back to the Committee with the information as soon as I can.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Your choice of words is different from the Committee’s, and I need to correct you. “As soon as you can” is not really good enough, unless it means “urgent”. While I respect your choice of words, we need to use words such as “urgent”. I want to emphasise the fact that we need to know tomorrow. However, I know that you cannot do that.

Mr Shannon:
Immediately; soon; as quickly as you can.

Mr P Ramsey:
With regard to the monitoring rounds, who determines how the slippage money is spent? The Committee has received representations from different bodies involved in sport, and it has been told that people will be at risk when using sporting infrastructure across Northern Ireland. For example, some parts of sports grounds are not available or accessible.

What consideration has been given to the Committee’s opinion of priorities? Most importantly, ordnance survey is going through DFP.

Mr Carleton:
Yes.

Mr P Ramsey:
We are arguing for more infrastructure for sport, and you are now saying that you will take £300,000 from sport in Northern Ireland and give it to ordnance survey, which is going to DFP. Surely that is absurd — to say the least. We are depending on the sporting infrastructure to provide greater facilities for young people across Northern Ireland and the Department is depriving them of that.

I have a range of projects that the Minister said that he would do his best to fund and they were all turned down this year because of Lottery funding. Mr Carleton is now saying that over £0·25 million is to be given to an organisation that is doing nothing. Where is the equality? There is not much point in the Committee sitting down month after month and week after week giving ideas, thoughts and suggestions on how it sees the way forward for DCAL, only to find itself entirely ignored from every angle or any approach it wanted prioritised. I am getting a wee bit fed up with the situation. Around £300,000 is being taken away from sport and given to another organisation.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Mr Carleton, are you able to help the member?

Mr Carleton:
Yes I am. I understand that those schemes applied for sports Lottery funding, and that was a matter for Sport NI. That is Exchequer funding, of which sport has a surplus and will have a surplus this year. That is how I understand the financial accounts. This year, the two have not been mixed. The Minister was engaged in sporting matters yesterday and encouraged Sport NI to look more imaginatively at how it deploys Exchequer funds and Lottery funding.

Mr P Ramsey:
I am not happy with it. Almost 50% of those who participated in the consultation process for the Budget called for an increase in sport and arts funding. Given the high dividends that are available to society and healthier living from spending money on sport, Sport Northern Ireland should have been encouraged to spend that money. If Sport Northern Ireland were unable to spend the money, it should have gone back into the system to subvent the sporting infrastructure. Does DCAL not see sport as a priority across Northern Ireland?

Mr Carleton:
Yes, it does.

Mr P Ramsey:
Why is that money not being recycled into the sporting infrastructure in Northern Ireland, when it is so deeply required?

Mr Carleton:
Apart from anything else, DCAL did not receive a request from Sport NI to recycle that money.

Mr K Robinson:
Was Sport Northern Ireland aware that that £300,000 was going to become available?

Mr Carleton:
Sport Northern Ireland informed us that it could not use the money that it had.

Mr K Robinson:
Was it aware that the money was likely to become available? If someone were to walk in here and ask us to spend £50,000, we would want some time to think about it and how we might spend the money wisely.

Mr Carleton:
The Executive’s capital budget for sport is around £8 million. That figure of £300,000 comes from that £8 million.

Mr K Robinson:
So £300,000 of that was not going to be spent anyway.

Mr Carleton:
Yes, that is correct.

Mr K Robinson:
Is that because sporting bodies had not made bids for that amount of money?

Mr Carleton:
The Department received no bids from Sport Northern Ireland.

Mr P Ramsey:
In this year’s Budget, how much money is allocated to sports infrastructure capital?

Mr Carleton:
Which financial year are you referring to?

Mr P Ramsey:
I am referring to this coming year.

Mr Carleton:
In 2008-09, £31·2 million of Exchequer funding will be allocated to sports capital.

Mr P Ramsey:
Is that figure for the three-year period?

Mr Carleton:
No, that is for one year.

Mr P Ramsey:
Why was the Committee told by Sport Northern Ireland that no money would be available across the whole range of sports improvements?

Mr Carleton:
I do not know what Sport Northern Ireland told you, so I cannot explain that.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Would you like more detail on that? On 28 November 2007, the Committee met Sport Northern Ireland, and we heard its complaints and problems. How can we ensure that Sport Northern Ireland’s fears are addressed? I need direction on how that can be moved on.

Mr P Ramsey:
I need consistency from the responses that I am receiving form the Department, but I am not getting consistency today. I have the briefing document that Sport Northern Ireland presented to the Committee. We may have learned a hugely important lesson: to ensure that Sport Northern Ireland and the Arts Council take advantage of the monitoring rounds, irrespective of how DCAL prioritises those. I can only accept that Sport Northern Ireland was not in a position to use that money, recycle it or make a bid for the money for alternative purposes. Questions on those issues must be tabled to Sport Northern Ireland.

The Deputy Chairperson:
We will do that. Anthony, I remind you that today’s meeting is being recorded by Hansard. Undoubtedly, the Hansard record will be brought to the attention of the Minister so that he can see what we are talking about.

Mr Brolly:
As the Sports Council was unable to spend the £300,000, would it be good practice to solicit bids from it, given that, at least in theory, the money belongs to it? That would be better practice than if the Department were to instead grant that money to another body, such as PRONI, if it needed money. How does the Department decide where it will distribute the £300,000?

Mr Carleton:
During the process of any monitoring round, the Department asks the branches and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) whether they will be able to spend their money.

Where possible, at the de minimis level, the Department matches up an easement request with neighbours. In that case, it matched up an easement from sport with a request for additional funding from the Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland. The Committee will be aware that, had the Department not done that, there would be no automatic right to end-year funding: any capital underspend would be referred back to the Executive for redistribution and would not necessarily come back to sport or to any DCAL bodies. Therefore, when there is a need, the Department wants to ensure that it uses its resources to meet that need.

Mr Brolly:
Certainly, no one in the Committee, the Department or communities needs to be told that sport needs every penny that it can get; as, too, does the Arts Council.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Gentlemen, I am afraid that we are behind schedule and we have not considered the budget. Can the clerks advise the people who are waiting to discuss fisheries that the meeting is behind schedule? I will take one last question on monitoring before we move to the budget.

Mr McCausland:
An extra £300,000 is going to the Arts Council for revenue and procurement costs. What exactly are those revenue costs? Are they internal costs or grant-making costs?

Mr Carleton:
They are most likely grant-making costs. It is not capital; therefore, it must be revenue, essentially. Presumably, those costs are for the Arts Council to issue grants.

Mr McCausland:
Under IDF, there is £350,000 for two projects in the Shankill. What is its status as IDF money? Is it ring-fenced or has it been lost?

Mr Carleton:
There is no end-year flexibility for IDF either. It would have to be rebid for in incoming years.

Mr McCausland:
What is the Department’s protocol for contacting organisations in order to inform them that there is likely to be a withdrawal of money? My understanding is that for one of those projects, there was a huge time gap between contact from the Greater Shankill Partnership Board and any response from the Department.

Mr Carleton:
The Department has a protocol through which the sponsor branches contact the relevant spending authority. I do not know the specifics of that case. I would have to check that there was a time delay.

Mr McCausland:
It came as a surprise to the partnership board when, after one of our meetings, I phoned to say that the money was being withdrawn. I sit on the partnership board. No one else on the board, including the chief executive, knew anything about that until I rang them. That does not seem to tie in with protocol. Can the Department put that protocol in writing? It must be ensured that if a letter or a document needs to be sent, there is adequate time in which to do that, rather than 48 hours’ notice to sort something out. That is impossible, particularly when such a substantial sum of money is involved — £350,000 is significant, particularly when IDF spending in the Shankill was small.

The Deputy Chairperson:
We will now move to the budget. I realise that the session with officials should have been finished five minutes ago. I am going to work with that because nearly everyone wants to speak on the budget, with some time probably being taken up with questions. I seek members’ assurances that they are comfortable with that and want to take the time to discuss the budget; I do not want to rush it. It means that we are being slightly discourteous to our next guest. However, we must live with that.

Mr Carleton:
The budget for the next three years is, essentially, in two parts; the revenue budget, which is the annual recurring spend, and the capital. The capital budget in years 1 to 3 is set. There are indicative figures for years 4 to 10. It is a 10-year capital investment programme. Overall, the Department receives a revenue increase of £55·3 million. Increases over the next three years will be deployed in the areas that are set out in the table: arts, £9·75 million; the innovation fund for arts, £5 million; museums, £5·865 million; libraries, £9·25 million; sport, £11·5 million; cultural policy, £250,000; inland waterways, £5·551 million; north/south language bodies, £3 million; and PRONI, £5·134 million.

Capital spend for those areas for the first three years of the programme will be £31·5 million for arts, £22·9 million for museums, £31·6 million for libraries, £111·5 million for sport infrastructure, £6·4 million for inland fisheries and waterways, and PRONI will have £28·6 million. The latter is money for the new premises that are being built in Titanic Quarter.

The additional funding will go to meet the targets that are set out in the Programme for Government. Some of the significant issues over the next three years will be the establishment of the single library authority and the commencement of the sports and physical recreation strategy. We will provide funding for the Ulster-Scots academy, as agreed in the St Andrews Agreement. The amount of funding will be £500,000 in 2007-08, £750,000 in 2008-09, £1 million in 2009-10 and £1·25 million in 2010-11.

We will continue to work with W5 and Armagh Observatory and Planetarium to encourage children to pursue science and technology. We will start, and encourage support for, the Waterways Ireland programme. As I said earlier, we will look to PRONI to have its new building up and running by 2010.

The Deputy Chairperson:
I have a couple of questions. Is there cover for a stadium of some sort in the figures? Where is it, and how much is it?

Mr Carleton:
There is capital investment of £111 million for sport, £70 million of which has been set aside for the stadium should it require that capital and should it go ahead.

The Deputy Chairperson:
In other words, hypothetically, if £70 million were to be used, there would be £41 million for sports. I am sure that you cannot ask, but, should that money not be required, will sport keep the whole £111 million? Will the £70 million be redistributed?

Mr Carleton:
The Minister has received an understanding from the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) that, depending on the funding model of the new stadium and whether it goes ahead, all unused funds will revert to the Executive. However, if there are sporting priorities, DFP will look at the business case and the support for those priorities.

The Deputy Chairperson:
That is helpful. There is just one other point: the Committee was going to write to the Minister about it, but, as you are here, we will ask you. According to the Budget statement of 22 January 2008, and I quote Hansard:

“the Executive have agreed an additional allocation of £2 million to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in each of the next two years to address the concerns that were expressed during the public consultation process about arts funding, as well as sports and library funding.” [Official Report, Vol 26, No 7, p316, col 2]

In your briefing, you said that there was £1·5 million for arts and £500,000 for libraries, for each of the financial years. There is no mention of sports.

Who is right — the Minister of Finance, or whoever prepared the briefing?

Mr Carleton:
The additional £2 million for years one and two has been allocated to arts and libraries. I believe that the Finance Minister’s use of the term arts, libraries and sports was more generic, referring to the Department’s remit rather than being specific to programmes.

The Deputy Chairperson:
I do not think it is generic: the Minister actually said “as well as sports”. That is not a tip-of-the-tongue expression. If he is wrong then he is wrong. Far be it from me to point the finger at him, but are you saying he is wrong? Was it a slip of the tongue?

Mr Carleton:
We are seeking clarification from DFP officials on that, but as it presently stands the budget allocation is for arts and libraries — £1.5 million to arts, and £0.5 million to libraries, for the two years.

The Deputy Chairperson:
We have written to seek clarification on that. The Committee believes that sports should be included in the budget allocation, but not to the detriment of arts or libraries.

Pat, you indicated that you wanted to comment — is that on something that I have been remarking on?

Mr P Ramsey:
It is supplemented to your initial question. Mr Carleton, when I asked you earlier about sport infrastructure and capital works, you told me that £30 million is to be spent on it this year. We now find that £70 million is allocated for the stadium — can you tell me how much of that is for the elite sports, for the Olympic bid?

Mr Carleton:
The Department has made a commitment to make funding of £53 million available for elite facilities, and it will still do that.

Mr P Ramsey:
So, I ask you again — does the budget include money for sports capital which can be allocated to the sporting bodies in Northern Ireland? You told me that £31 million was available for 3 years, and that £70 million of that has been allocated for a new stadium. But now you are telling me that even those figures are wrong, because if you put £50 million more onto that £70 million, that is a total of £120 million, which is apparently for elite facilities only. So where is the money for the capital works, which you tell me are included in the budget?

Mr Carleton:
The elite sports facilities will not all be completed during the current budget period; they go beyond 2010-11. Furthermore, the Department has flexibility to move between what are called the sub-pillars, so we intend to review project management, because what inevitably happens is that capital projects are delayed whilst there are other projects that we would like to bring forward. The Minister has given a commitment to Sport NI, and the Department has assurances from DFP that we will be able to manage the capital programme and deliver the funding for the elite sports programme from that allocation.

Mr P Ramsey:
But do you not think that you misled me earlier as it now seems that, if those figures are correct, there is nothing in the budget for capital works for any sporting body in Northern Ireland?

Mr Carleton:
My understanding is that the sports strategy includes the implementation of, or potential for, a new multi-sports stadium. £212 million in capital investment has been set aside for the implementation of the sports strategy over the 10-year period. If, for example, the stadium does not go ahead next year, then capital funding will become available which can be deployed to improve the sporting infrastructure in Northern Ireland. Provisions are in place to fund a multi-sports stadium — and it is wholly appropriate that we have those — but if the stadium does not go ahead then that means that sports funding will become available.

Mr P Ramsey:
God save us; that is totally hypothetical. I originally asked you — and I am glad that Hansard is recording this — how much money is available in the budget to improve the sporting infrastructure in Northern Ireland? You told me that £31 million was available, but now it is the case that at least 70% of that £31 million is for the stadium.

Mr Carleton:
That is right. Some £10 million has been set aside next year for the stadium; £20 million has been set aside for things other than the stadium. The figure of £70 million is a three-year figure.

Mr P Ramsey:
Some £20 million is left for next year. How much of that is for elite facilities?

Mr Carleton:
I have to look at the detail, but the elite facility that is on the books at the moment is the pool in Bangor. That will consume £3 million to £4 million next year, because of the construction time.

Mr P Ramsey:
So of the £17 million left, how much is going to other seven elite sports facilities?

Mr Carleton:
I do not know offhand. I will look that up. It depends what the programme is.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Thank goodness for scrutiny Committees. Perhaps Joe Public out there will appreciate the work we do. The problem is that we are just ordinary people elected to do a job of work; and getting our heads round departmental-speak is not easy. We need to report those facts and figures back to the electorate in every constituency.

Perhaps, one day, we will be able to talk plain English, and put plain issues down on a bit of paper so that they are easy to understand. With all respect, Mr Carleton, it seems to me that it is totally unnecessary that a member should have to engage with you in such a line of questioning when he is asking a simple question. That comes across badly. We are neither clear, nor happy. Perhaps, in future, when figures are presented to the Committee, we can see them without having to go through such teeth-pulling scrutiny. We need to check and double-check everything.

Mr Shannon:
Mr Deputy Chairman, will we get a response to all the questions that Pat has asked?

The Deputy Chairperson:
We are not leaving it at that. We cannot. I want to be fair both to Pat and to Anthony Carleton. This is just coming out now. We most assuredly need a very detailed response to the points that have been made by Pat Ramsey on the Committee’s behalf, and the Committee is fully supportive of the manner in which Pat has approached this.

In future, the Committee does not want to hear different news on different weeks as to what on earth is happening with the distribution of budgets. We have been through the draft Budget. There will be a debate on Tuesday 29 January 2008. Without prejudicing anyone else’s decision, my mind is to throw the book at your Department over its handling of Budget matters on Tuesday. That is a criticism of your Department. You have treated us lamentably in all these instances. That is a clear message.

Mr Ramsey has addressed pertinent questions and I hope that your Department will respond to them, because they are of a serious nature. All we want to do is get to the bottom of this and work together. On certain issues, that is very difficult.

Mr Brolly:
I want to ask about the £70 million. Anthony, I appreciate that you have inherited the system of doing things: you have not invented it. You have told us that, if the £70 million set aside for the new stadium is not used, it will be redeployed in sport.

The Deputy Chairperson:
No; he did not say that. It goes back to DFP.

Mr Carleton:
Technically speaking, it goes back to DFP.

Mr Brolly:
You did say —

Mr Carleton:
The Department has had discussions with DFP and the Minister has a view that it should be used for sporting infrastructure.

Mr Brolly:
Why can that principle not operate with respect to the £300,000?

Mr Carleton:
There was not the capacity to spend the £300,000 between now and the end of March, and we would have lost the money.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Is there anything else you wish to add to that?

Mr Carleton:
There is a difference between Exchequer funding and lottery funding. Sport NI has been informed that there is a reduction in its lottery funding, and I believe that it is referring to those schemes. It is not the same with Exchequer funding — and we are talking about Exchequer funding.

The Deputy Chairperson:
The Committee will continue now with specific questions.

Mr Carleton:
So the questions so far have been general?

The Deputy Chairperson:
The Committee never knows what will be said at its meetings. Sometimes the briefings are all too brief.

Lord Browne:
Continuing on the previous theme, it appears that DCAL has not allocated funding in its budget for capital projects, particularly at community level. Sport begins at community level, so why is no money available for that work? One of DCAL’s targets is to have 125,000 children participating in sport and physical recreation by 2011. Could you elucidate on the definition of “children”? It is clear that there are resources to meet that target, but are those resources available? It appears that they are not. Involving young people and youth in sport helps with their education and social skills.

Mr Carleton:
I will have to come back and clarify the definition of “children”. However, I understand that it is young people between the ages of 11 and 16. Community sports and community facilities are grant-aided, predominately through Sport NI as part of the implementation of its sport and physical recreation strategy. It has targeted several community activities and the funding is available.

Mr Brolly:
Although sport receives much lower per capita funding than any other region around here, including the rest of Ireland, no extra money is available to offset that, and people had hoped the money would have been available. The investment of £110 million for sports facilities by 2011 is to ensure a lasting legacy from the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics. The Committee is concerned that no detail is available on how that money will be allocated, which sports will benefit and what the geographical spread of the funding will be. The Committee also queries how much of that money has previously been ring-fenced — although we have just had the answer to that — and, therefore, there may be very little new money for sports infrastructure.

The Committee notes that there is no funding allocation in the DCAL draft budget for capital projects at community level, yet it is at community level that much of the good work is done. Can you tell us something about that?

Mr Carleton:
From the capital investment identified in the sports strategy — and setting aside the stadium — £40 million is available in the first three years and £20 million a year after that for the next six years. A lot of that money is targeted towards community infrastructure, and that is for Sport NI to deliver. The detail of that is contained in the strategy for sport and physical recreation. We do not yet have the specific detail of all the programmes confirmed and how the budget will be spent. However, we will be working up business and delivery plans for various non-departmental public bodies over the next few weeks. I am happy to come back to the Committee with the plans once they have been identified.

The Deputy Chairperson:
Again, are you happy enough to come back to the Committee with the plans? We are working on the basis that you are going to return to the Committee, quickly. That’s fair? Are you happy with that arrangement?

Mr Carleton:
Yes.

The Deputy Chairman:
The Committee is gathering up quite a lot of items. You are saying that you are happy enough to come back, and that is great. The Committee is working on the basis that it does not have to go looking for information, again, and that you will return to it quickly.

Mr Carleton:
The chief executives and the chairmen of the various spending bodies have to agree their business plans for three years, based on the Budget, which should be agreed in March. That would be the final document, which would then be published. There is a timetable for the publication of business plans. I do not know whether the bodies will have those plans firmly in place before March. I would need to check that out.

The Deputy Chairperson:
I would be grateful if you would keep us informed of that matter.

Mr Carleton:
I will provide you with a timetable of when the plans have been completed.

Mr McCarthy:
Earlier, you spoke about art, which has received increased funding of £1·5 million. To where will that money be allocated? The briefing paper that you gave us this morning simply states:

“Make significant progress in closing the per capita funding gap between Northern Ireland and other UK regions and the Republic of Ireland.”

The Department has stated that its key goal is to grow the creative industries sector by 15% and that additional funding of £5 million has been made available for this. What exactly is meant by creative industries, and does that include cultural tourism?

Mr Carleton:
In answer to your first question, the allocation of the funding and its distribution are matters for the Arts Council. I will ask the Arts Council for details with regard to how it is going to allocate the £1.5 million, and I will come back to the Committee with that information. I am at a loss with regard to the definition of a “creative industry”. I will have to find someone else who can provide a better definition of that term.

The Deputy Chairperson:
I hope that it is close to what Mr McCarthy said.

Mr Carleton:
I know that it is about the creative industries that grow and generate employment. There is a definition — I simply do not know what it is.

Mr McCarthy:
An extra £5 million has been made available for those industries. Will cultural tourism be included as part of the creative industries?

The Deputy Chairperson:
May I give you a copy of the Ulster Unionist Party’s manifesto? The “creative industries” was one of the issues for which it pushed. Our manifesto will explain it all to you.

Mr Carleton:
I will have to come back to the Committee with an answer to Mr McCarthy’s question.

Mr McCausland:
The figures that have been presented to the Committee show the increases in the departmental budget over the years. It would be helpful, when we are given those figures, to have extra columns that show: this year’s figure; the figure for which the Department had bid; what they actually got; and the figures for the next three years. May we ask that that information is provided — in the extra columns — for next week’s Committee meeting? It would save me from having to dig through lots of paper.

With regard to the ARNE formula, rates are treated as unavoidable [Inaudible.] variations. Does that mean that the boards are fully — 100% — recompensed for rates?

Mrs Carol Caves (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure):
Yes. Rates are treated as unavoidable expenditure. Some boards are located in areas that are more highly sought after, and would cost more, than others. Therefore, their rates would be higher and would have an impact on that board’s budget. Therefore, we remove rates from the equation. The boards tell us what the rates are and that amount of money is allocated to them before we split up the rest of the money.

Mr McCausland:
Under TSN, you say 10% for libraries as opposed to 5·5% for other spending areas. Is that 5·5% uniform across all of the Departments?

Mrs Caves:
I do not know the answer to that question. What I can say is that 5∙5% was the figure that we compared it with. That figure was inherited from the Department of Education.

Mr McCausland:
Do schools use the 5.5%?

Mrs Caves:
They were using it when we inherited this in 1999.

Mr McCausland:
Rather than prolong my questioning, to save time, I will get some further clarification of some of those points. One of the difficulties is that very few people — unless they are extremely sad and spend hours looking at these things at night — understand the ARNE formula. With most members of education and library boards to whom I have spoken, eyes glazed over at the mention of it, unless they happened to be chairman of the finance committee. A simplified version of it is needed and would be useful. This is a start, and I welcome it.

Mr P Ramsey:
I welcome the increase in the arts budget. It is welcome relief, especially to the [inaudible] sector where, last year, it had a greater effect of increasing jobs in Northern Ireland than in any other region across the UK. Perhaps I am returning to my hobbyhorse.

The sports strategy will take £100 million to implement. I do not have my book here. Can you tell me where that fits into this budget? What are the major outputs of the sports strategy? The Minister announced, if I recall correctly, that he believed that he now had the money to deliver the sports strategy. How much money is in this budget for it?

Mr Carleton:
The resource spend in the budget, for sport over three years, is £33∙6 million. Next year it will be £8∙8 million; the following year, £10∙3 million; and £14∙5 million in the year after that. That makes £33 million, along with £811 million set aside for capital, which has to be factored into the potential for stadium costs. However, the strategy includes a multi-sports stadium, so £33 million is resource, plus £111 million capital.

Mr P Ramsey:
Can I again make a point that many members have concurred with? In delivery of the sports strategy, the whole emphasis was on community infrastructure: access, participation, young people, disabled people, older people and healthy living. Please come back to me with the figures — specifically on the delivery of the sports strategy, where they fit in the budget, in revenue and capital terms, and where that delivery will take place.

The Deputy Chairman:
Are you asking Mr Carleton to come back to the Committee?

Mr P Ramsey:
Yes.

The other point I want to raise relates to someone who has been advocating provision for elite facilities and has ensured that we have a legacy in Northern Ireland. Peter Hain announced £53 million for elite facilities, including the new pool, three and a half years ago, which was warmly welcomed. The new pool costs £15 million. Last year, the Department top-sliced £20 million off that announcement; so that from £53 million, the commitment for elite facilities was reduced to £35 million. I return to budgetary concerns: if £20 million is required to deliver the existing elite facilities, apart from the Olympic swimming pool, can we have a more precise methodology, showing us where the money is being spent?

All I am interested in is the sport. I am not interested in having a go at you, or having a go at the Department. I just want to make sure that people here have the same access to sport as those in Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

The Deputy Chairman:
From the point of view of methodology, we would be content if the Committee’s officials and those of the Department would get together to discuss it. That is a reasonable request.

Mr P Ramsey:
My other point, which is hugely important, is that in 1997 the Scott report identified £30 million worth of investment required to bring sports grounds up to a medium standard. When I speak of sports grounds, I mean the grounds of clubs such as Institute, Coleraine, Windsor Park, the Glens, the rugby clubs and all the rest of them. How much money is in the budget for that?

Mr Carleton:
Do you mean for the safe sports grounds strategy?

Mr P Ramsey:
Yes.

Mr Carleton:
It is of the order of £2 million per year for the next three years. I will come back to you with specific detail.

Mr P Ramsey:
So that is another £2 million off the capital fund? It is more important that we have that information, Deputy Chairperson, because it does not add up.

The Deputy Chairperson:
On the basis that £70 million is subtracted, we are asking for a breakdown of how the rest is being spent.

Mr P Ramsey:

I wish to make a final point about the funding formula. As a representative of a constituency that falls within the remit of the Western Education and Library Board, I see it as an appropriate funding mechanism, because it takes account of population and areas of deprivation, and ensures that it hits the right spot. Although I accept and respect Nelson McCausland’s concerns, as someone who represents the west, I think I am getting a fair deal.

The Deputy Chairperson:
I will be fair to you, Pat, and let you know that this session is being recorded by Hansard. In your ability to multi-task, you said that you wanted to ask a specific question about libraries. However, you got carried away with sport, and I appreciate that, being a sports fan myself. I hope that the members will indulge you.

Mr P Ramsey:
Thank you, Deputy Chairperson. We have received verbal and written submissions on the subject of this year’s libraries budget. However, we are now being told that opening hours are being threatened and mobile libraries are being closed. Library services are being restricted, and although there is some additional money for book buying, it does not amount to much once it is distributed across Northern Ireland.

According to all five education and library boards, the library service is in crisis. That is what they have told us. How will the service fare under the new single library authority? Wearing my cynical hat, I wonder whether the Department is trying to weaken the library service in order to make the new authority look good when it takes over. We heard a presentation. I am concerned about targets for literacy and numeracy, and about access and participation. People in both urban and rural settings seem to be losing out. The library service is not meeting the targets set out in the draft Programme for Government, and sees itself as providing, as one of its representatives said, a second-class service. What comfort can I give to those boards that are trying to work with young people and adults with literacy and numeracy problems?

Mr Carleton:
Are you talking about the finance that is available? My understanding is that the chief executive-designate of the new library authority is content that the budget is sufficient to allow her to deliver the services that are outlined in the policy document. The Department is prepared to listen to the representations that were made by the chief librarians for next year’s budget and will try to address any financial issues that they have raised. Those can be resolved with increased funding, provided there is an increase in the level of service delivery. However, the budgets that the chief executive-designate requested for the new library authority have been agreed. I do not know that she is happy, but she said that she is content that she can deliver that new service.

Mr P Ramsey:
Again, Deputy Chairperson, there is a level of inconsistency here, to say the least.

The Deputy Chairperson:
There certainly is. The chief executive-designate has been given a lot of money. It is no wonder that she is happy, but where is it? We have not seen what she works for.

Mr P Ramsey:
This is an incredible situation. These are formal representations, which are being recorded by Hansard. I advise Mr Carleton and the departmental staff to examine the Hansard record of their representations, and come back to the Committee with their opinion.

Mr McCausland:
I wish to pick up on Pat Ramsey’s point about the new library authority.

The Committee still does not know what the detailed higher-level structure in that authority will be. We assume that there will be no savings regarding local libraries, unless a lot more of them are to be closed; because, how else would money be saved? The system has been cut to the bone.

We do not know what can be saved at the top because we do not yet know what the structure is, there is nothing to be saved at the bottom level, and book buying has been at an all time low. Therefore, how can anyone — even the Department — be satisfied that there is sufficient money to fund the new library authority?

The Deputy Chairperson:
The chief executive designate says so.

Mr McCausland:
Can we get a breakdown of how the money is going to be spent, how the costs are going to met, and what impact that will have at the local level regarding the maintenance of library infrastructure and money to spend on books?

Mr Carleton:
I do not see any reason why not. We will have to liaise with the chief executive designate in order to get that information.

Mr McCausland:
We are discussing the budget for libraries, and we are coming to the end of a discussion about the single library authority, yet we do not know whether we can pay for it.

Mr Carleton:
I will try to get that information to you, but I do not have it with me today.

Mr McCausland:
I understand that.

Mr D Bradley:
The Committee received evidence last Tuesday from most of the chief librarians, who all reported decreases in their library budgets well in excess of the increase of £1 million over two years that you have mentioned. In fact, they reported a continuing downward spiral of decreasing funding for libraries over the past number of years.

One of the Department’s targets is to:

“maintain the proportion of library users … who are satisfied with public library provision”.

How do you hope to achieve that, when, in fact, the resources available to libraries to enable them to provide a first-class service to the public are being cut?

Mr Carleton:
I do not have any evidence of the reduction in library spending that the representatives of the library boards talked about. I did not attend the Committee meeting last Tuesday, and I do not know what they said.

I do know that for 2008-11, we have identified some efficiency savings and they have been replaced with more funds than have been reduced. I do not know of any other reductions; I am not saying that there have not been any, but I do not have that information.

Mr D Bradley:
The figures in your written submission show that libraries will receive £500,000 during 2008-09 and a further £500,000 during 2009-10. However, one library board, with the smallest shortfall, had a decrease of £200,000 and other boards had much larger decreases. Therefore, I cannot see how £1 million over two years is going to compensate for the decreases that the chief librarians reported to us.

Mr Carleton:
The £1 million over two years is in addition to the funding that was outlined in the draft Budget. Therefore, that is over and above the —

Mr D Bradley:
The chief librarians were reporting to us on the figures in the draft Budget, and, in my view, the increase of £1 million over two years will not compensate for the decrease that they reported to us.

Mr Carleton:
I did not see the figures that were given to the Committee.

Mr McCausland:
A letter we received from the Western Education and Library Board states that:

“The sum available to the five Boards to run libraries next year is 0·5 million or 2% less than this year. Once inflation is taken into account this represents a reduction in real terms of almost 5%.”

The Deputy Chairperson:
We may have advantage over you, Anthony, regarding the speed that this Committee works compared to how your Department works. We met last Tuesday with representatives from the library boards. One would think that your Department would have had people present in order to hear the evidence and the comments, and that what was being said would have been serious enough to be reported back. Obviously they have maybe been delayed in making the journey from Stormont to wherever they were going, but I hope that somebody may find out whether there was anybody here and whether they had anything to report. I would be aghast if they had nothing to report, because they were obviously not listening and have therefore put everyone into a difficult position.

Mr K Robinson:
During that discussion in the Senate Chamber on Tuesday, I specifically raised two points.

There are two regional services, for want of a better term. In Omagh, the Western Education and Library Board has the Centre for Migration Studies, and the Belfast Education and Library Board has the Central Library. The archive material that it holds is a regional resource. Committee members had grave concerns that those two very valuable services would almost disappear off the radar in the library cuts. When you are looking at library figures and readjustments, will you ensure that someone looks after the interests of those two bodies, lest they be lost in the house cleaning that will take place when the new library authority is set up?

Mr Carleton:
Yes, we will look at that.

Mr K Robinson:
We would be very grateful.

My last shout is a question about inland waterways and fisheries. We all agree that investing in waterways is useful and will generate a return through tourism. Hopefully, that investment will cause money to flow back into the coffers in the future. However, I am not sure that angling is getting a fair crack of the whip. Some figures show that angling will bring in a substantial tourism income. We are looking after culture, arts and leisure and trying to promote tourism. Would you revisit the allocations to the inland fisheries to see whether there is some way in which we could involve the voluntary sector, for want of a better term? Jim Shannon knows exactly what I mean. There are some very active angling groups that struggle to raise money to restock rivers and fight pollution almost single-handed. If the Department could engage with them, it would get more bang for its bucks. Will you look again at the angling aspect?

Mr Carleton:
Yes. I will ask someone to review that.

Mr Shannon:
Just to back up that point, there is untapped potential for involving the many good angling groups and organisations. Ken has stolen my thunder on that. The amount of money that is spent in that area is miniscule in relation to its potential to generate income. The ADSEA (Ards and Down Salmonid Enhancement Association) project has the potential to bring £200 million into the economy. Spending a small amount can generate big returns. I would like to see that happening, if possible.

Anthony, you commented earlier on the national stadium and what would happen to the £70 million should that project not go ahead — I would not lose much sleep over its demise. There has been some suggestion that the IFA, the GAA and Ulster Rugby would receive some money. That would leave a fair amount of that £70 million — perhaps about £40 million — which could go back into sports. Going back to the point that Pat Ramsey made earlier, there is a way of ensuring spend on local sports. Perhaps that depends on what happens with the stadium project. I am more concerned about the comment that you made that the £70 million would be retained.

The Deputy Chairperson:
We are not going back to the stadium.

Mr Shannon:
I did not have a chance to come in on that, Chairman. I want to make the point that the £70 million, and the £40 million that might be left after the three bodies get their dosh, would give us what Pat and everybody else wants — money for sport.

The Deputy Chairperson:
We all agree with that. Thank you, colleagues, for giving the Committee your time to ask questions. Thanks also, Carol, Deidre and Anthony for your open and frank answers. This is a robust Committee, as you have probably gathered. However, it reflects the members’ feelings on issues about which they have genuine concerns. You will be aware that the meeting was recorded by Hansard, and I recommend that you, or somebody, should read very carefully the Hansard report of today’s meeting. Our interest is intense; this is a hard-working Committee. We have given more than an extra hour to your evidence. Many questions are still unanswered, and we understand the reasons for that. We also understand the promises to come back to the Committee with answers. We are very grateful to you.

I apologise to the people who have been waiting patiently while we have been dealing with this matter, we will deal with them shortly. Thank you; we look forward to seeing you again. I hope that the Department will take note of everything that we have said.

Mr Carleton:
Thank you very much.

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