Minutes of Proceedings

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 02 December 2015

1. APOLOGIES

Apologies were received from Mr Ramsey.

2. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

None

3. CHAIRPERSON'S BUSINESS

The Speaker commended all involved with the Heaney/Lewis portrait unveiling on Tuesday 24 November.

Ms Ruane gave her support to the portraits but stated that there was a need to address the gender imbalance in the art work in Parliament Buildings.

The Speaker noted there was a need for Parliament Buildings to reflect all aspects of the community.

Action: Mr R Ramsey, Adviser to the Speaker/Head of Corporate Support to provide an update on work to address gender imbalance in Parliamentary artwork and update the Commission at the next meeting.

The Speaker also noted the success of the North/South Plenary event on Friday 27 November with particularly thoughtful presentations and discussions on the subject of Supporting Women in Public Life and Increasing Participation.

The Speaker reminded Members of the reception this evening to switch on the Assembly Christmas tree lights. This year, the event will recognise local relief efforts in response to the ongoing refugee crisis.

The Speaker also reminded Members that the Assembly carol service would be held on Wednesday 9 December 2015 at 1pm.

4. MINUTES OF MEETINGS

The minutes of the Commission meeting on 4 November 2015 were agreed for publication.

Action: Publish minutes.

5. MATTERS ARISING

5.1 Commission responsibilities under the NIPSO Bill

The Clerk/Chief Executive advised Members that the OFMdFM Committee is not proceeding with amendments to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman's (NIPSO) Bill which had been considered at the last Commission meeting.

Members were asked to note the responsibilities the NIPSO Bill places on the Commission and to agree the proposed procedures for discharging these responsibilities. (i.e. that:
The Commission has a role in permitting a NIPSO taking office to retain some other office, employment or membership providing it would not compromise the NIPSO's role;
The Commission has a role in the enforcement of post termination restrictions where someone leaves office; and

A motion of nomination should be brought on behalf of the Assembly Commission (having identified best candidate).
Ms J Cochrane joined the meeting at 1.13pm

Agreed: Members agreed the proposed procedures for discharging the Commission's responsibilities.

Action: Mr R Ramsey to ensure the Speaker and Commission exercise duties under NIPSO Bill/Act as appropriate.

5.2 Longer term building improvements

Mr Welch, Director of Facilities provided an update on the progress made to date on improving Members' access to Parliament Buildings and its services.

The proposed short term measures had been completed with the exception of alterations to the Office Resources office which would be completed during Christmas recess

Investigatory work, scoping of requirements and initial design work in conjunction with DFP and architects has begun to look at longer term, significant projects to address ongoing access issues with Parliament Buildings. These projects include internal ramps, fire-proofed lifts and internal door issues.

Mr Welch noted that egress in event of a fire or other emergency was a critical factor in all considerations.

The Commission accepted that the long term measures will require an additional bid to be submitted for capital funding. However, it was important that access in Parliament Buildings was to the highest standards.

Ms Ruane stated that progress was needed quickly on internal access but that security and access should not be conflated. She did not support electronically controlled internal door access.

Action: Mr Welch to provide further details and timetable for front of building access improvements; improved access within Parliament Buildings and additional works as detailed in December's Commission paper.

Action: Officials to explore future meeting with the Speaker or Commission Members for Andy Allen MLA if Mr Allen feels it might be helpful.

Mr Mingout joined the meeting for agenda item 5.3.

5.3 Hospitality and Events Revenue Generation Proposals

The Speaker welcomed Mr Mingout to the meeting.

Mr Welch spoke to his paper and sought approval from the Commission to agree the implementation of the Revenue Generation Plan for an initial trial period of 2 years.

Ms Bradley raised issues with security at the proposed corporate events to be held in Parliament Buildings, although she fully supported the use of the building for such events.

Mr Welch stated that he was confident that all the necessary security measures would be in place for events held in the building.

Discussions also took place around possible requests to hold events on Sundays. The Speaker asked that records be kept of these requests.

Agreed: Members agreed to a 2 year trial period with a review after the first 12 months.

Action: Mr Welch to proceed with a 2 year trial of the Revenue Generation Plan with monitoring of opportunity costs.

Action: Mr Welch to provide the Commission with a progress report on the Revenue Generation Plan after first 12 months with analysis of enquiries by day and type.

5.4 Childcare Scheme Update

Mr Stewart, Director of Corporate Services, provided a verbal update on correspondence received from the Equality Commission regarding the screening exercise undertaken regarding the ending of the Assembly childcare scheme for Secretariat staff.
The Equality Commission noted the revised screening exercise undertaken by the Assembly and although they felt the mitigating measures proposed were sufficient, it was for the Assembly to determine whether all factors have been taken into account in concluding that an EQIA is not necessary.
Ms Ruane stated her belief that an EQIA should be undertaken and proposed a motion to this effect.

For:
CaitrĂ­ona Ruane MLA 28 votes
Total: 28 votes

Against:
Paula Bradley MLA 40 votes
Sam Gardiner MLA 13 votes
Judith Cochrane MLA 11 votes
Total: 64 votes

Following the vote Mr Stewart sought agreement on the introduction of the two mitigating measures as discussed at the last Commission meeting. These measures provide for a level of financial support to contribute towards additional childcare costs incurred when required by the Assembly to attend work which is outside of a staff member's normal working pattern and the provision of a level of financial support for parents of children with disabilities who must use a Specialist in the provision of care for that child.

Agreed: Members agreed to implement the mitigating measures.
Action: Mr Stewart to implement the two mitigating measures to the Assembly Childcare Scheme as discussed.

6. CORRESPONDENCE

6.1 The Commission noted correspondence between the Finance Minister and the Speaker regarding the Commission's Budget for 2016/17. A meeting has been scheduled for 15 December and the Speaker will update Members following the meeting.

6.2 The Commission noted correspondence between the Speaker and the Chair of the Committee for Regional Development regarding the Assembly Cycle to Work Scheme. The Committee had noted the Commission's agreement to introduce a Cycle to Work Scheme that permitted new members to join at any stage in the financial year.

7. CLERK/CE KEY UPDATE REPORT

The Clerk/Chief Executive provided Members with an update on the key issues in his monthly report namely:

7.1 SP15+ Update and Review

The Clerk/Chief Executive advised Members that a reallocation of staff had taken place following the release of staff under the Voluntary Exit Scheme (VES) and to support the expected high volume of legislative business in Plenary and Committees up to Dissolution in March 2016.

A review on the progress to date of SP15+ is currently being undertaken and the next steps in the programme up to 31 March 2016 are being considered.

Due to changes to the Directorates and Commission Members a review of Commission Members' portfolio arrangements will be carried out in January.

Action: Mr Stewart to provide an SP15+ Update Report to the January Commission meeting.

7.2 Financial Matters

Management Accounts

Members noted Management Accounts for the period April to October 2015.

Mr Stewart provided an overview of the accounts. The Commission is on target to meet its year end spending target.

Budget 2016/17

The Clerk/Chief Executive referred Members to the last Commission meeting when agreement was reached on offering a 5% reduction in 2016/17 on controllable expenditure.

As noted earlier, the Finance Minister is meeting the Speaker to discuss the budget setting methodology for the Commission and its budget for 2016/17.

The Clerk/Chief Executive advised Members that the deadline for bids for a Voluntary Exit Scheme (VES) in 2016/17 is 4 December 2015 and this deadline falls before the Commission is made informed of its budget for 2016-17.

Action: Mr Stewart to forward a provisional bid for Voluntary Exit Scheme funding for 2016-17.

7.3 Ill-Health Retirement Allowance

The Clerk/Chief Executive referred Members to the Commission meeting of 6 October 2015 when approval was granted on the payment of an Ill-Health Retirement Allowance to a Member.

The Clerk/Chief Executive sought approval for the payment of the Ill-Health Retirement Allowance on a revised date.

Ms Bradley left the meeting at 2.42pm.

Ms Bradley re-joined the meeting at 2.45pm.

The proposed approval of the change of date was put to a vote:

For:
Paula Bradley MLA 40 votes
Sam Gardiner MLA 13 votes
Judith Cochrane MLA 11 votes
Total: 64 votes
Against:
CaitrĂ­ona Ruane MLA 28 votes
Total: 28 votes

Action: Mr Stewart to implement requested date change subject to receipt of written confirmation of resignation.

7.3 Assembly Commission Annual Report 2014/15 Session

The Clerk/CE referred Members to the draft copy of the Annual Report 2014/15 which had been issued for comment. A suggestion to include reference to the North South Inter-Parliamentary Association (NSIPA) had been received.

Agreed: Members were content for a review of NSIPA activities to be included in the report.

Action: Mr McGrath, Director of Parliamentary Services, to update the 2014/15 Annual Report.

Ms Caul, Acting Director of Legal and Governance Services left the meeting for agenda item 7.4.

7.4 Recruitment of Director of Legal and Governance Services

The Clerk/Chief Executive advised Members that the Speaker would represent the Commission on the recruitment panel for the post of Director of Legal and Governance Services and that Elizabeth Jones (Head of Legal Services at the National Assembly for Wales) would serve as the independent member. The post is due to be advertised during December 2015.

Ms Caul, Acting Director of Legal and Governance Services rejoined the meeting at 2.54pm.

7.6 Industrial Tribunal Claim

The Clerk/Chief Executive updated Members on the withdrawal of an Employment Tribunal claim.

7.7 Christmas building closure dates.

Members noted the dates.

Mr D Martin, Clerk Assistant joined the meeting for the next agenda item.

8. LEGISLATIVE PROGRAMME

The Speaker welcomed Mr Martin to the meeting.

Mr Martin spoke to his paper on the pressures facing the Assembly over the coming months arising from then heavy end of mandate legislative programme and of measures that are being taken to seek to mitigate the associated risks.

The Clerk/Chief Executive advised Members that there are seventy fewer staff members now than at the end of the last mandate and that it will be important to monitor staff pressures and wellbeing. Due to these reductions, it is not possible to provide the same level of service as has been provided in the past.

Members discussed possible ways to address the issues raised and a suggestion to meet with Whips was made and accepted by Members as a possible way forward.

Action: Speaker and Officials to monitor position and consider further discussions with Business Committee and Whips as necessary.

9. INDEPENDENT FINANCIAL REVIEW PANEL (IFRP): MINOR REFORM

Ms Caul spoke to her paper on the Independent Financial Review Panel: Minor Reform and the three aspects of the current arrangement.

Ms Caul asked Members if there were any other reforms that they would like considered.

Members complimented Ms Caul on a very comprehensive report but felt they needed more time to consider options.

Agreed: Members agreed that more details around the timings of the three aspects would be useful.

Action: Ms Caul to provide a timetable for amending three aspects of the current IFRP arrangements covered by her submission paper to the January Commission meeting.

Action: Mr Gilsenan to distribute previous Commission paper summarising the IFRP recruitment process.

Mrs Cochrane asked for clarification on the fees and expenses detailed in the paper.

Action: Mr Stewart to provide Members with a breakdown of IFRP Members' fees and expenses for each of the last 4 years.

10. AOB

10.1 Lighting of Parliament Buildings

Mrs Cochrane asked about the new lighting facility for the exterior of Parliament Buildings and its expected implementation date. Mr Welch advised that estimates for the work greatly exceeded expectations and that he was seeking to negotiate a lower cost.

Action: Mr Welch to provide an update at the January meeting.

10.2 Update on representation of women in Parliament Buildings.

Ms Ruane requested an update on this issue at the January 2016 Commission meeting.

10.3 Internal Security Review Report

Ms Bradley asked if the Internal Security Review Report had been received.

Mr Welch advised that the PSNI had indicated that the report would be available prior to Christmas and that he understood the review was on schedule.

Action: Mr Welch to bring the Security Review Report to the January 2016 Commission meeting.

10.4 Assembly Gift Vouchers

Ms Ruane asked if the vouchers were also going to be produced in Irish.

Action: Mr Welch to arrange for a version of the Assembly Gift Vouchers to be available in Irish.

11. DATE OF NEXT MEETING

The next meeting will take place on Wednesday 20 January 2016 at 1pm in Room 106.
The meeting ended at 4.06pm

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