Official Report (Hansard)

Session: 2008/2009

Date: Tuesday, 02 June 2009

June Monitoring Round

2 June 2009

Members present for all or part of the proceedings:

Mr Barry McElduff (Chairperson)
Mr Dominic Bradley
Mr Kieran McCarthy
Mr Raymond McCartney
Mr Nelson McCausland
Mr Pat Ramsey
Mr Ken Robinson
Mr Jim Shannon

Witnesses:

Ms Deborah Brown )
Mr Colin Watson ) Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure
Ms Linda Wilson )

The Chairperson (Mr McElduff):

Good afternoon Deborah, Colin and Linda. I welcome senior officials from the Department who will brief the Committee on the June monitoring round.

Ms Deborah Brown (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure):

I thank the Committee for inviting us to present the Department’s proposals for the June monitoring round. Accompanying me are Linda Wilson, our director of arts, culture and languages, and Colin Watson from sports branch, who is deputising for Hazel Campbell.

As the Committee is aware, the Department of Finance and Personnel (DFP) usually commissions four monitoring rounds per year, normally about four weeks in advance of the return date. The June monitoring round was commissioned on 11 May 2009, with a deadline for return to DFP of Thursday 4 June. DCAL received returns from its sponsor bodies, which were presented to the departmental board on 27 May. That was done in advance of the submission to the Minister on 28 May so that we could provide a paper to the Committee on Friday 29 May. Unfortunately, those tight deadlines meant that we were unable to provide all the tables that we normally provide. I believe that those have now been supplied to the Committee, and I hope that members have had a chance to look at them. I am happy to run through the tables as we move through the proposals.

I want to give the Committee an overview of public expenditure. In recent years, the main focus of the early monitoring rounds has been in reducing the starting level of the overcommitment. As a result, the capacity to meet in-year bids for resource or capital expenditure has been restrained in order to try to meet the level of overcommitment. According to DFP, the overcommitment in 2009-2010 is approximately £80 million, which is lower than in recent years but still needs to be managed.

Given the relatively low levels of reduced requirements recorded in 2008-09 and the significant decline in end-year underspends indicated in the latest departmental forecasts there is increasing pressure across the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) block. As regards current expenditure, although there are some additions from previous UK Budget and pre-Budget reports, this is offset by the lower levels of unallocated end-year flexibility. In addition, there are the costs of the Executive’s commitments, such as the regional rates and central reform costs. Indeed, this year’s central reform costs are estimated at approximately £12·3 million. Those costs are to be treated as a prior commitment as the Executive gave a commitment that the money would be found in the monitoring rounds. Therefore, that will have first call on any easements reported in the June monitoring round. There is another significant potential pressure in respect of the one-off cost associated with the NICS equal-pay claim.

According to DFP, access to capital expenditure end-year flexibility in 2009-2010 is set at £100 million with none having been pre-allocated in the Budget for 2008-2011. However, the majority of the cost of the Executive’s decision in November 2008 to defer the introduction of water charges into 2009-2010 is expected to be incurred as capital expenditure. Pressures are also expected in respect of the downturn in the property market. That is an outline of the context in which we approach the June monitoring and the pressures with which the Executive are being presented.

DFP has asked Departments to provide details of all reduced requirements for resource expenditure and capital investment following the early indications provided in the strategic stocktake exercise. Given the current financial position, DFP has said that it is critical that reduced requirements are surrendered as early as possible in the financial year. As part of that, the Department is proposing to surrender £1·795 million of its Ulster-Scots Academy budget of £4·295 million.

DFP has also advised that Departments will be given the opportunity to manage their emerging pressures through proactive management actions and will have an opportunity to put forward proposals to limit the level of expenditure on specified services or functions in order to release resources to meet pressures in other high priority areas. DFP has asked that this is clearly distinguished from the normal reduced requirements that occur. Normal reduced requirements must continue to be surrendered in the normal way.

DFP has also advised that in circumstances in which a Department proposes an above de minimis reduction or cessation of expenditure, the relevant proposed reduction and pressure will be considered jointly, and DFP will recommend that either or neither are approved.

On capital, DFP has asked Departments to submit any changes required to bring the capital investment budget allocations into line with the information recorded on the investment strategy’s delivery tracking system. In light of the global economic downturn and local market conditions, Departments have been asked to critically examine their investment plans and put in place any necessary actions to address the possible budget pressures arising.

On the UK Budget announcement and the consequences for Northern Ireland, in 2009-2010 the Barnett consequentials will increase the budgets by £50·3 million, of which £26·5 million is current and £23·8 million is capital. The Executive will consider deploying that in the June monitoring round. In 2010-2011, the Barnett consequentials will increase the budgets by £66·1 million, of which £60·7 million is current and £5·4 million is capital. However, the Treasury will also seek further efficiencies in 2010-2011 of £122·8 million on current expenditure. Therefore, the net effect in 2010-2011 is a fall in the Budget of £62·1 million. Therefore, DFP is asking Departments to identify any areas of one-off expenditure in 2010-2011 that they feel could be accelerated into 2009-2010. However, DCAL has not been able to identify any expenditure from 2010-2011 that it feels it could accelerate into 2009-2010 in this respect.

As regards bids, the Department has thoroughly reviewed its resources and that of its arm’s-length bodies. Therefore, the Department’s planned spend for the financial year is £122·6 million in resource and £67 million in capital. It should be noted that this is reviewed by the Department on a monthly basis, with changes being made in-month if needed, and with formal approval being sought in the next monitoring round, which will be in September.

I will go through resource first and then move on to capital. DCAL is bidding for additional administrative costs of £388,000 in relation to the governance support team. This is to take forward the CIPFA and PAC recommendations. It will include centralising the draw-down process — that is, the payment of the grant-in-aid to the arm’s-length bodies — and the introduction of a risk assessment of the arm’s-length bodies and their governance arrangements. Those recommendations came from the arm’s-length body review team that came into the Department from DFP.

We are also bidding for the £4·8 million easement in the libraries capital to be transferred to the social pillar to be used in areas such as museums. Movement between pillars requires Executive approval, and I will cover that in more detail when I come to capital.

The Department is proposing to declare a reduced requirement of £1·795 million in resource in respect of the Ulster-Scots Academy. The academy has a budget allocation of £4·295 million for 2009-2010, but the plan is not sufficiently well developed to achieve the full spend. DCAL officials are working closely with stakeholders to agree the way forward and hope to make progress by the autumn.

The Department is also proposing to surrender £2 million of the multi-sports stadium budget. We will seek to secure that money again in the next comprehensive spending review (CSR) exercise, but that will be subject to Executive approval. We are content that the other small pressures can be managed by reprofiling the other capital investment in the overall budget allocation.

If the bid of £4·8 million against the libraries easement is successful it could allow for an additional surrender of a similar amount from the stadium money. However, we will not be in the position to assess that until we have confirmation of that and the position as we approach the September monitoring round.

To ensure the delivery of its objectives and targets, the Department is seeking approval to fund de minimis bids — those below the £500,000 mark — by reprioritising its resources to meet the pressures in its high-priority areas with proactive management by means of internal reallocations. There have been small easements noted in PRONI, of £50,000, and in National Museums Northern Ireland, of £50,000. We propose to move those across to meet pressures in the Central Procurement Directorate costs required to deliver on the capital investment programme.

We also seek to transfer some of the budget to organisations to undertake some of the 2012 projects. Following London’s successful bid for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games an NI task force was established to take forward Northern Ireland’s response. That included representation from lead bodies including the Arts Council, Sport NI, local government, the Department of Education, the Department for Employment and Learning, Invest NI and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. In May 2008, the Executive received a statement from the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Edwin Poots, setting out the Northern Ireland strategy for the 2012 games and the proposal to establish a leadership group with responsibility for taking forward the strategic direction of Northern Ireland’s 2012 strategy.

To support that, work was done by the Arts Council and Sport NI, the expert bodies that drive forward Northern Ireland’s 2012 strategy in culture and sport respectively: that is in line with their roles as arm’s-length bodies of DCAL. To take forward the additional work, two transfers are proposed; £120,000 from the 2012 unit to the Arts Council for the Cultural Olympiad projects and £50,000 from the 2012 unit to Sport NI for the pre-games training programme and 2012 sporting projects. A transfer is also being proposed of £180,000 from cultural policy to the North/South language body. That merely reflects the transfer of responsibility for the Colmcille project, which is now being directly managed by Foras na Gaeilge rather than the Department.

The Department will action a number of technical transfers including several to the shared-service centres in respect of Account NI, IT Assist, the advertising shared-service centre, and charges to OFMDFM for specialist help with freedom of information and for support of the equality and social needs steering group. In addition, the Department receives money from DFP in respect of HR Connect but also makes a direct payment to HR Connect. Furthermore, there is one other credit to DARD to support the salmon research work carried out for DCAL by the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) scientists.

If the Committee is content, I will move on to capital. The opening capital budget across the Department is £74 million, which is split between two pillars. The skills pillar includes schools and youth services, further and higher education, and libraries. In that pillar, the Department had an allocation of £10·5 million for libraries. The social pillar covers regeneration, housing, welfare reform, and culture, arts and sport. The Department’s allocation under culture, arts and sport is £63·5 million. We are seeking to accelerate projects in areas, as allowed by the investment strategy, with a view to freeing up money in later years to put back into stadia development.

The key reallocations of the stadium budget are as follows: £16∙4 million to other areas of sport; £2∙8 million to museums; £1∙7 million to arts; £925,000 to PRONI, and £250,000 to inland waterways. That makes a total reallocation of £22 million of the stadium budget. That is kept under constant review, particularly trends in spend. It will be revisited each month by the Department and, formally, as a part of the September monitoring round. There will have to be repayments made in future years from sectors that are now benefiting from the acceleration of projects and the associated provision of funding.

The projected spend position for the June monitoring round is that there will be an underspend of £1∙979 million against the stadium and £4∙8 million in libraries. Within the library sub-pillar, as I said, there is an easement of £4∙8 million, and we are bidding in the June monitoring round for that easement to be transferred from the skills pillar to the social pillar in order to allocate it to projects in which we have identified pressures, especially museums. Because that is a movement between pillars, it requires DFP approval.

We are retaining £4∙8 million against the stadium budget. The reason for that is to ensure that we will successfully achieve the transfer of £4∙8 million across from libraries. If that is successful we will revisit the position with a view to surrendering £4∙8 million specifically against the stadium budget. The incentive is to ensure that we surrender as much stadium budget at this point against that line so that when we get to the next CSR we can clearly demonstrate that we surrendered stadium budget and are subsequently bidding for the return of that money in order to take forward stadia development.

The Committee asked for an update on the progress of the Department’s preparations for the implementation of international financial reporting standards. The Department has a detailed implementation plan in place for its migration to the international financial reporting standards. It is working alongside DFP and the Northern Ireland Audit Office according to a timetable that applies across all the NICS Departments. The major exercises under way provide DFP with detailed budgetary impacts of the migration by the middle of August and the restatement of the 2008-2009 accounts on an international reporting standards basis by 30 September, in advance of an audit by the Northern Ireland Audit Office. Despite the number of resource pressures, the Department is currently on schedule to meet the common timetable. I am happy to take questions from the Committee?

Mr D Bradley:

Good afternoon. What total resource was originally dedicated to the Ulster-Scots Academy? Has a reduced requirement been noted, and if so, what size is the reduction? On what was the money to be spent? Is DCAL bidding to recover it? If it is successful, how will the money be spent?

Ms D Brown:

I do not have the details of the original resource allocation with me but I can get them for you quickly. Last year, we surrendered money on the Ulster-Scots Academy. It was approximately £3 million, but I will get you the exact figures. In bidding to recover that money, the Department will consider it as part of the next CSR process and seek to ensure that it can reinstate the funding at that point. However, that will be subject to Executive approval.

Mr D Bradley:

If the funding is reinstated, will it go back to that project or can it be allocated elsewhere?

Ms D Brown:

If we submit a bid under the CSR, we will consider the purpose of that bid in light of what has been achieved in respect of the Ulster-Scots Academy at that point. That will dictate what we can bid for as part of the next CSR process, which will cover the period from 2011-12 onwards. I suspect that we will begin to consider that process in the middle of 2010, at which point we will be in a better position to determine how much progress has been made on the academy.

Mr D Bradley:

On what was that particularly money supposed to be spent?

Ms Linda Wilson (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure):

That money was part of the original funding set aside for an Ulster-Scots Academy. At the moment, other than the concept of an academy and some small areas of work, no specific detailed plans exist for precisely how the £4 million will be rolled out. That is one of the reasons why the Department is surrendering money, but it is doing so on the clear understanding that it will bid to regain it, because it is money that is destined for an Ulster-Scots Academy. However, processes must be in place before we can spend the money.

Mr D Bradley:

Was the original figure approximately £12 million?

Ms L Wilson:

Yes.

Mr D Bradley:

Has the figure been gradually reduced?

Ms L Wilson:

The figure has reduced as it has been spent. Various strands of work have been carried out, but the principle of a rolling £12 million exists. We will bid to have the balance reinstated, which is, perhaps, a better word, in a future CSR.

Mr D Bradley:

There is no guarantee that such a bid will be successful.

Ms L Wilson:

No absolute guarantee exists, but the Department will have a strong case because of the way in which the money for the Ulster-Scots Academy was set up. It differs slightly from the normal bidding process for public expenditure.

Mr D Bradley:

What is holding up progress on the development of the academy? As your colleague said, £3 million was surrendered last year and a further £2 million is to be surrendered this year.

Ms L Wilson:

There is a balance between the nature of the money for which the Department bid in the CSR period and keeping the figure of £12 million in its sights. The figure of £4 million allows for significant spending, and we are considering drawing up some new proposals and consulting stakeholders on how the money might be spent. Associated with that would be a more detailed time frame for when the spending might be expected to be rolled out. That would enable us better to profile the spending.

Mr D Bradley:

Is any progress being made on the academy?

Ms L Wilson:

The Department is working with the stakeholders to take a fresh look at the project to —

[Inaudible due to mobile phone interference.]

Mr McCarthy:

The fact that £1·7 million intended for Ulster Scots has been handed back tells me that the Department has not been able to spend what has been allocated. From the Minister down, there are complaints that Ulster Scots is not receiving equal investment to other organisations. Will you explain that?

You mentioned the surrender of £2 million from the budget for the multi-sports stadium. Will that money be redirected to other sporting projects, will it go back into DFP’s kitty, or will it disappear?

Ms D Brown:

The surrender of £2 million will be returned to DFP for it to redistribute against the priorities identified by the Executive at that stage.

Mr McCarthy:

Will the money be allocated to sport?

Ms D Brown:

Not necessarily: the money will be returned to DFP, and it will make a proposal to the Executive, taking into account other pressures and bids from other Departments on how the surrenders should be used.

Mr McCarthy:

Could the money, therefore, be lost to sport?

Ms D Brown:

We have sought to reallocate as much of the multi-sports stadium budget as possible across other areas, including sport, to ensure that we can accelerate some of the projects planned for later years. In turn, in later years, those projects will be able to free up money for stadia development.

The Chairperson:

I am sorry to interrupt you, Deborah. Mobile phone interference is affecting the recording equipment. Will everyone in the room ensure that their mobile phones are switched off?

Ms D Brown:

The Department is trying to maximise the use of the budget allocated to it for projects that are planned for later years. By then, money will not be needed for those projects and will be available for stadia development. However, there are no guarantees on any of this, because the next CSR period will be subject to the circumstances that pertain at that time.

Mr McCarthy:

That is a disappointing answer, because £2 million going out of the budget will be lost to sport, and we wanted it to be invested in sport. I am also concerned about the provision for Ulster Scots. There is a discrepancy here: the Minister is always complaining that not enough money is being allocated to Ulster Scots while money is available but cannot be spent.

Ms L Wilson:

The issue is around development of the sector and its capacity to spend. The Minister is keen to see parity of spending, but that assumes that there will be organisations with the capability to spend and processes and procedures in place to facilitate that. There is a lot of spending involved if we need to spend £4 million across small groups. It is a large and ambitious programme. The capacity of the sector needs to be addressed. We will be seeking to do that with stakeholders when we examine the new proposals that will be brought forward.

Mr P Ramsey:

You are welcome; it is good to see you again. Kieran asked about the £2 million surrender. The Committee has had intensive discussions about the difficulties regarding safety in sports grounds in Northern Ireland. My impression is that clubs and associations in a range of sports were ready to spend the money on improving safety at their grounds. I am disappointed that that money is being surrendered. I know that there have been difficulties, but I thought that there were projects that were fit and ready to spend that money. Is that not the case?

Ms D Brown:

I am sure you will appreciate that although there are projects that are fit and ready there is a process that has to be gone through. The business case has to be made to the Department for assessment via Sport NI, and, if passed, must obtain DFP approval. There are a number of steps along the way. Our re-allocation of £22 million was based on what we were told the arm’s-length bodies could spend and which projects they could accelerate at this point. Some £16 million of the multi-sports stadium budget has been reallocated to other sports. Colin may be able to answer your question about stadia safety.

Mr Colin Watson (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure):

Deborah is right; £16 million has been bid for and proposed for reallocation across the sports environment. That includes the work on the Places for Sport programme, which provides the new 3G pitches. We are seeking to invest £9 million to £10 million in that programme in the coming year. As regards safety at sports grounds, there is a process to go through; however, £6 million will be available between this year and next year. That money is separate from the £16 million that came from the multi-sports stadium budget and will accelerate projects planned for future years. If we get those done, the money available for them will then be available for stadia safety whenever that comes round.

The Chairperson:

Are you giving only an additional £272,000 to safety at sports grounds this year?

Mr Watson:

Yes, because that is all that is required on top of the £2 million that has already been allocated for spending this year. There is a finite amount of money to be spent in any given year.

Mr P Ramsey:

It is hard to reconcile that with the fact that other departmental officials have told us that a further £22 million will be required to bring stadiums up to the standards that are required for the safety of supporters not to be compromised. Although I accept that some projects might not be ready, I find it alarming that that money is being handed back. Can you provide a complete breakdown of how the money that was set aside for the multi-sports stadium will be reallocated to sport? It may be that £10 million is to be reallocated to elite sports facilities and that £5 million is to be reallocated elsewhere, but could we have an exhaustive list of where the Department intends the money to go?

The Chairperson:

Pat, do the Department’s papers contain that information?

Mr P Ramsey:

No, I do not think that they do.

The Chairperson:

There may be a difference of opinion on that point.

Mr Watson:

Our papers contain a breakdown of how the Department proposes to reallocate the £16 million.

Mr McCarthy:

Was the allocation for the multi-sports stadium not £60 million, originally?

Mr P Ramsey:

That is what I had thought. The table is difficult to read; it is difficult to know what the different columns say.

The Chairperson:

That is a good point; the table is difficult to read.

Mr McCausland:

I wish to reinforce the point that Linda Wilson made about the Ulster-Scots Academy. The difficulty has been that, in the early years after the two language bodies were established, the Ulster-Scots Agency made no attempt to promote community capacity development or to give empowerment. That has now been remedied by the agency, and that has transformed the situation. That process should have been sequential, but the first steps were not put in place at the initial stage. Therefore, the Department was not in a position to follow up with the second and third steps.

Mr Shannon:

Deborah, you mentioned that the Department proposes to transfer £4·8 million from libraries capital to museums projects. I am concerned that, when the new library board is set up, some newbuilds will be sought. Newtownards has been waiting for a library for some time, and I have spoken to the chief executive about that matter. I find it very frustrating that £4·8 million is going out of the libraries budget when a project in Newtownards could be scurrying along. Will you indicate which library capital schemes are not going ahead and why that is the case? Such a scheme is currently being completed in Bangor. It is logical that such schemes are in place, and it is a bit silly for them not to be up and running.

Ms D Brown:

Earlier, I spoke about the processes involved in undertaking a capital scheme. Those include preparing a business case and having the appropriate approvals, and planning permission, in place, and they take time. When a capital project slips, it is not particularly easy to get another capital project up and running quickly to mop up the underspend. That is a general point; Linda will provide some more specific information on the underspend.

Ms L Wilson:

The underspend comes from a number of libraries projects that have not progressed as quickly as had been anticipated. The library in Antrim, for example, is on schedule to open later in 2009. The library in Newtownstewart is scheduled to open this summer, and work on the library in Dungiven is expected to begin on site.

A large chunk of the underspend has come from Belfast Central Library. A big project is planned there, but it has not really advanced in the timescale that was originally expected. Some work has been done, but considerably more work must be done on that project before it can get under way.

The creation of the new library authority has not affected any of the work on the ground. The Department has been pressing very hard to bring forward projects that are in progress, and I accept that we must keep doing that. There is an issue with the fact that the new authority is carrying out its own strategic review of the estate. Five education and library boards have now been amalgamated, and there are issues surrounding the location of certain libraries. However, that is a more long-term, strategic issue, and I do not think that that will affect the library authority’s immediate spend.

Discussions are ongoing in relation to the Newtownards library, and the big issues relate to deciding on the location of the site and developing the economic appraisal. It is estimated that the project will cost around £3 million, which is clearly a big investment. Therefore, the Department requires an economic appraisal to be carried out. Once that has been done and has gone through the system, it will take a further 12 to 15 months for detailed designs to be drawn up and for planning permission to be granted. However, work is currently ongoing in relation to that library.

Mr K Robinson:

Committee members will remember that the Committee was almost put to the sword to put the legislation through. We were told that the roof would fall in if we did not do so, but we decided that certain safeguards needed to be built into the new authority. Those safeguards were acceded to eventually. However, despite all that unholy haste, it now seems that there is a delay in bringing to fruition the bricks-and-mortar projects, such as the new library that Jim referred to in Newtownards.

Surely, the education and library boards, which were in the business for 30 years, all had their own strategic schemes and at least one of those, in each area, would have been brought up to a fairly high standard so that it was ready to roll. How have we finished up in a situation in which there are dips in different areas, such as the safety of sports grounds? Are we progressing at all, or are we simply going through the same systems that the Administration here has always gone through, regardless of who is pulling the strings in Hillsborough Castle or in this Building? It is very disappointing to see that we have not got to grips with some issues.

I understand the need to build up expertise in library authority. I am also aware that that will take time and that it should have been addressed a long time ago. However, the authority has been given a clean slate, yet we still we have nothing on the ground. That is most disappointing.

Ms L Wilson:

The Northern Ireland Library Authority (NILA) inherited plans from the education and library boards, and it is trying to take forward whatever expenditure it can. I am not sure whether we would be in a different position with the capital programme had the education and library boards been retained, rather than the library authority having been created.

Mr K Robinson:

I am happy to see the money transferring in the interim to museums, because museums need a boost. However, I am very disappointed that the library authority, having started from a clean slate, has not got its act together, just as the Department has not. As a result, people around the country, like Jim, are not seeing the benefits of the new authority, nor are they seeing the Administration pushing things forward.

Mr Shannon:

What particularly perturbs me is that Edwin Poots, Michael McGimpsey before him, and the present Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, all expressed a wish to pursue the Newtownards library project. The reason that I met Irene Knox and her officials is that I am concerned that the authority now seems to be considering an alternative location for the library. Who directs the authority on what it should do? When a decision is taken to build a new library on the site of the old Castle Gardens school, should it not be built there? Why is the library authority considering a different location?

I also want to place on record that when Ards Borough Council debated the idea of building the new library at Queen’s Hall, 21 of the 23 council members voted against the idea. Why is the library authority pursuing a different location when the council has clearly stated its preference for the site of the old Castle Gardens school? Given that we have a new library authority in place, we should pursue the matter with zest, energy and enthusiasm to ensure that we arrive at the goal that was agreed some time ago.

The Chairperson:

OK, Jim. I can understand your impatience about a local issue, but —

Mr Shannon:

I want to make a further point in relation to that. As Ken mentioned, why is there not another scheme lined-up if it happens that one falls down because, for example, there are issues with planning permission or the business plan? Surely, if the Department and the authority are prudent and are thinking ahead, they should have another project in place?

Furthermore, which museum projects will benefit from the reallocation of £4·8 million?

Ms L Wilson:

I will take up your points with the chief executive of NILA.

Mr Shannon:

I have done so already, so you will be telling her the same as what I have told her.

Ms L Wilson:

I will follow that up.

Ms D Brown:

The Department does not look at libraries in isolation. We have a capital programme, which spans libraries, museums, arts, sport, PRONI and fisheries. Therefore, we have a huge programme. We have a 10-year investment strategy, and a number of projects are undertaken within that 10-year period. As I explained already, we try to accelerate some projects as a result of slippage in others. In this instance, we are proposing to accelerate some projects because libraries have slipped. The intention is to, in time, put money into libraries from the sectors in which projects have benefited from being accelerated now.

Mr Shannon asked which museum projects will benefit. We intend to accelerate work on the collections resource centre, and there has been a huge acceleration on the Cultra Manor project, and we hope to pursue that further. Work will also be done to build the foundations for the infrastructure of the new world development at the Ulster American Folk Park, and work is also planned for the visitors’ centre at that site. Furthermore, work is required to be done on security systems at the Ulster Museum.

We are looking at a number of areas in museums and considering where money could be best spent and which projects could be accelerated. We are aware also that there has been slippage from last year, and we are trying to make up time on those projects.

This is a rolling programme, and I hope that members will appreciate that 2008-09 was the first year of the 10-year investment strategy. It is difficult to have projects ready to go, but, as we begin to ramp up, it is hoped that we will have a rolling programme, which means that we will be able to ensure that we maximise the use of our budget.

Mr Shannon:

You mentioned the transfer of the £4·8 million into museum projects. Did you say that that money would be returned to libraries?

Ms D Brown:

We will give the money back to libraries, at some stage. The library authority cannot spend the £4·8 million because there is slippage in library projects, and that means that there will be a pressure next year, perhaps, when those projects are ramping up again. That money will be returned to libraries by the sector to which the Department reallocated the money, which, in this instance, is museums. To clarify, museums do not decide to reallocate the money, the Department does. The Department maximises its budget by doing exactly what you mentioned in your first point: it ensures that some projects are ready to commence when slippage occurs. We have not managed to use the full money that was allocated for the stadium — we are surrendering £2 million — but we have managed to use a significant amount.

Mr Shannon:

That is significant, because it means that the money that has been transferred out can, eventually, return; that is interesting. Irene Knox told me that the £3 million could be lost.

Ms D Brown:

In theory, if you do not use it, you lose it. If we surrender money, there is no guarantee of getting it back, but we are seeking to move the £4·8 million across from the libraries pillar. There is a risk involved, because the money is being moved to a different pillar and the Executive have to approve that. If the Executive do not approve it, we will lose the £4·8 million, and there will not be an opportunity to put it into other areas.

Mr P Ramsey:

Francie Brolly is not here today, so I should ask you about Dungiven library. In fairness, he has been raising that issue consistently.

Mr McCausland:

I could also raise the issue of Ballywalter.

Mr P Ramsey:

Has work on that library been put on the long finger, as it has for Newtownards library? You said that almost £400,000 and additional staff were required, as a result of the arm’s-length body review team. That is a lot of money. How many staff are we talking about? Will they be responsible for the monitoring of Sport Northern Ireland and the Arts Council and for helping to govern those bodies? Will they be DCAL staff?

Ms D Brown:

The arms-length body review team recommended a team of 12. The Department has done some reorganisation and has managed to secure five of those posts within its existing resources. The Department also has to find efficiencies in line with the CSR. Seven posts remain that cannot be squeezed out of anywhere else; the Department is already significantly stretched. If we want to deliver all those recommendations, that is the bid that we will put forward. We appreciate that that bid is made in the context of much bigger pressures across the NICS block and that, therefore, we have to be realistic about whether it can be achieved.

Mr P Ramsey:

Therefore, that cost is for seven staff?

Ms D Brown:

Yes; it is for seven staff.

Mr P Ramsey:

That is nearly £55,000 a head.

Ms D Brown:

The cost is for a grade 7 member of staff, three deputy principals and three staff officers.

Mr P Ramsey:

It seems an awful lot of money for seven posts.

Mr Watson:

It is for the economic costs for members of staff, which include pension payments and all the other overheads.

Mr P Ramsey:

You mentioned that DCAL is bidding for administration costs. Is money for capital costs also being requested?

Ms D Brown:

Yes, because we are bidding to get the £4·8 million easement for libraries back into the sports, arts and museums pillar. Therefore, it is a bid, although it has nil effect.

Ms L Wilson:

The advertisement for the procurement for Dungiven library has gone out and the work is expected to start on site in September 2009.

Mr Shannon:

Pat, you heard it here first.

Mr McCartney:

That is where Francie Brolly is today — he is sitting on the site to make sure that nobody else moves in. [Laughter.]

Does the reallocation of the funding for the multi-purpose sports stadium require Executive approval? In the early part of your presentation, Deborah, you said that £2 million is being surrendered, that it may be asked for again, but that that would require Executive approval. In reference to capital, it was stated that £16·4 million will be reallocated to other areas of sport and around £6 million will be reallocated to arts, PRONI and Inland Waterways. What approval is needed for that? What guarantee exists that the money that has been reallocated will be available in the future for stadium development?

Ms D Brown:

It is in a Department’s gift to move money around within a pillar freely, without Executive approval. Executive approval is only required when money is moved from one pillar to another, as we are asking to be done with the money for libraries, which we want to move to museums. Therefore, that money will be moving from the skills to the social pillar. The stadium budget sits in the social pillar, so the Department may move that money around within that pillar. The fact that the money was given for the multi-sports stadium may add a slightly different dimension to the matter, but the theory is that it is in a Department’s gift to move money around within a pillar.

Mr McCartney:

You say that it might bring a —

Ms D Brown:

It might bring a different dimension to it, but the theory is that we have the ability to move the money within the pillar.

To answer your other question about the £6 million —

Mr McCartney:

No; that answers my questions. There is a view that the reallocation of the money would require Executive approval because that is the way that the money was obtained. When questions are asked about it, we hear that the answer is yes in theory but that there is another dimension. The other dimension could be that it either does or does not need Executive approval.

Ms D Brown:

It does not require Executive approval.

Mr McCartney:

It does not?

Ms D Brown:

No; because it is within the social pillar, it is in the Department’s gift to move it around.

Mr McCartney:

OK. If it is used now, what is the guarantee for the future when the three main bodies come back with their strategic —

Ms D Brown:

There is no guarantee, but, as I explained, because that money has been given to the other sectors, the idea is that whatever budget allocation is given in the new CSR, we would make sure that those sectors give back the money to stadia development. However, we do not know at this stage what sort of capital allocation the Department will get. Some of the soundings that came out of the last Budget at the start of April are that the capital budget could be cut in the next CSR. If that happens, there will be a need to re-prioritise the whole capital programme and that would be subject to ministerial approval.

Mr McCartney:

So, internal reallocation is the gift of the Department. The libraries cannot say that they will not give up their allocation, because that is the Department’s decision.

The Chairperson:

I thank Linda, Deborah and Colin for coming to the Committee

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