Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 13 December 2011

Venue: Room 106

Meeting began at 4.18pm

1. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST

The Speaker sought any declarations of interest from the Commission in relation to items of business being discussed. No matters were declared.

2. MINUTES

The minutes of meetings held on the 8 November 2011 and  29 November 2011 were agreed.

The Clerk/Director General, as agreed in the minute of the 29 November 2011, informed the Commission that he and the Director of Corporate Services had met with the IFRP and had raised the matter of the childcare scheme for Members.  IFRP had agreed that this would be considered as part of their review.

The Clerk/Director General also highlighted the high level of positive feedback received in relation to the new Assembly Website and praised the excellent work of the Secretariat staff responsible for the project.  The Speaker also paid tribute to the website and the staff involved.

3. DRAFT CORPORATE STRATEGY

The Clerk/Director drew Members attention to the Draft Corporate Strategy which had been developed following the Commission’s consideration of an initial draft Corporate Plan for the period 2012/16 in June 2011.  Mr Reaney highlighted that the current four year NI Assembly Secretariat Corporate Plan was due to expire at 31 March 2012 and as agreed by the Commission, a four year Plan covering the period from 2012/13 to 2015/16 would be developed to avoid the preparation of a successor to this major plan coinciding with the Assembly elections in 2015. 

The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that as a result of further consultations and discussions with senior staff, he was proposing that a Corporate Strategy would be a more effective method for setting the agenda for the Secretariat for the next four years.  Mr Reaney also highlighted the Key differences between the approach demonstrated by the Corporate Strategy 2012/16 and the current Corporate Plan.

The Clerk/Director General then provided a presentation to Members which highlighted the key challenges which the Commission faced within the Mandate and outlined the purpose of the draft Strategy, namely, to set high level strategic aims within a framework of the Vision, Purpose and Values of the Secretariat and to attach measures of success to each of these Strategic Aims.  The Director of Corporate Services also highlighted the allocation of the resource elements of the Strategy and drew attention to the planned capital expenditure over the next three years.  The Director of Corporate Services also provided Members with an update in relation to the recent monitoring rounds.  Commission Members agreed that in relation to Strategic Aim 3: ‘Be an efficient and progressive organisation’, that the first measure of success should be explicit in relation to an ‘underspend of 3% of the total budget’.

Mr Ramsey sought clarification in relation to the level of consultation which had occurred and the Clerk/Director General informed him that following an initial workshop with 40-50 senior staff from within the Secretariat, a copy of the draft Strategy had issued to all Secretariat staff and the TUS for comment.

Mr Cree asked for an opinion in relation to staff morale as affected by the reductions detailed within the Strategy.  The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that there were anxieties amongst staff which he had addressed by assuring staff that the reductions would be sought through vacancy management.  The Clerk/Director General also highlighted that there may also be issues to consider in relation to any institutional reform.  Mr Cree emphasised that there was a need for the Commission to be transparent in all decision making and was assured by the Clerk/Director General that he had been able to address concerns and communicate decisions through vehicles such as ‘staff briefings’ and ‘suggestion boxes’.

Members discussed the impact of the Corporate Strategy and the Clerk/Director General highlighted that he was in the process of establishing a project team to lead on the required ‘change management’ programme.  Mr Ramsey also requested that Strategic Aim 3 should be explicit to include all secretariat staff in the consideration of ‘reshaping the organisation’.

Mr McKenna highlighted to Members that they may wish to consider an alternative to ‘staff satisfaction rates’ in line with developments in the public sector which now focus on measures/levels of ‘staff engagement’. 

Following consideration, it was agreed that the Clerk/Director General would amend the draft Strategy in line with the Commission’s recommendations with a view to signing off the Strategy to allow the Clerk/Director General to lead on the development of a change programme and task Directors with the development of each of the Directorate Business plans for 2012 – 2013.

4. ANY OTHER URGENT BUSINESS 

4.1 Staffing

The Clerk/Director General informed the Commission that Mr Welch would be returning to his position of Director of facilities/Keeper of the House in January 2012.  The Clerk/Director General paid tribute to Mr Martin in his role of acting Director of Facilities/Keeper of the House.  Mr Ramsey, as portfolio holder for the Facilities Directorate, also acknowledged his contribution and paid thanks.

4.2 Appointment of the Commissioner for Standards

The Clerk/Director General informed members that interviews had concluded for the post of Commissioner for Standards and that no candidate had been found suitable for the post.  He highlighted that the Standards and Privileges Committee would consider the matter at their meeting on 14 December 2011 with a view to re-advertising in the New Year.

4.3 IT Provision for Members

Mr Ramsey highlighted the need to move the IT programme forward quickly as he had received numerous complaints from Party Colleagues in relation to the current provisions.  The Director of Information and Outreach informed the Commission that a programme to update services was planned within the coming year.  He highlighted that a contractor had been appointed to repair the printers and in conjunction he had agreed to the purchase of new printers.  The Director also informed the Commission that a lot of work had taken place in relation to the provision of electronic meeting packs.  Mr Ramsey requested that the matter be given consideration at an early Commission meeting in the New Year.

The Speaker wished all Members and Officials a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

5. DATE OF NEXT MEETING

24 January 2011 at 4.00pm in Room 106 

Meeting ended at 5.03pm

Tony Logue
Head of the Commission and Corporate Support Unit

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