Minutes of Proceedings

Session: Session currently unavailable

Date: 30 May 2017

Meeting Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings

Meeting date: Tuesday 30 May 2017

Meeting Time: 10.00am

 

Commission Members:
The Speaker
Mr Jim Wells MLA
Mr Alex Maskey MLA
Mr Alex Attwood
Mr Robin Swann MLA
Mr Stewart Dickson MLA

Officials present:
Mrs Lesley Hogg, Mr Richard Stewart, Mr Robin Ramsey and Mrs Janet Hughes

Others in attendance:
Ms Alice McKelvey, Legal Adviser

The meeting commenced at 10.05am.

1. APOLOGIES

No apologies were received.

2. BRIEFING

The Speaker thanked Members for attending the meeting and for their cooperation to date in dealing with items issued by Secretariat staff since the election in March.

The Speaker also welcomed Robin Swann to his first Commission meeting and congratulated him on his election as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

3. DECLARATION OF INTERESTS

No interests were declared.

PLANNING

4. Assembly Commission Staffing and Services: Preparatory planning for decisions which may need to be considered in July 2017

Lesley Hogg, Clerk/Chief Executive highlighted to Members that they remain in post until a new Commission is appointed by the Assembly and would therefore retain the responsibility for any decisions required as a result of the continuing political situation.

The Clerk/Chief Executive introduced the paper and outlined a number of proposed steps which would allow the Commission to consider decisions around staffing and services in Parliament Buildings for the medium term should parties not reach political agreement by 29 June 2017 to allow the Assembly to resume normal business. These included planning for arrangements should it be necessary to redeploy a greater number of staff, identifying the services that would be required in the building and the impact on current contracts.

Mr Wells asked for his appreciation to be recorded of how Assembly officials had kept Commission Members updated on developments over the last few months.

Members noted that should normal Assembly business not be able to resume, difficult decisions may be required and discussed a range of factors which would have to be taken account of including discussions with Trade Union Side and the impact of redeployment on individual staff.

Members agreed with the eight recommendations in the paper namely:

1. That it is noted that the current Assembly Commission continues to hold office and responsibility for the Commission's functions until the new Assembly is able to appoint successor members.

2. That the Commission should plan to meet during the week beginning 3 July 2017 should no political agreement be reached.

3. That it is noted that the principles of Retaining Readiness, Maximising Use of Public Resources, and Supporting and Motivating Staff will guide all decisions taken by officials and advice brought to the Commission.

4. That it is noted that before the Commission meeting in July, officials will conduct a review of the level of services and staffing required in Parliament Buildings for the medium term should no political agreement be reached.

5. That it is noted that officials will continue discussions to explore further voluntary redeployment opportunities for staff for the medium term including with the NICS, other legislatures and the wider public sector.

6. That it is noted that officials will begin work to identify issues which may have to be addressed by the Commission should mandatory redeployment of a wider group of staff at all levels be required.

7. That it is noted that redundancies are not being considered as an option in order to ensure that the Assembly can be supported at short notice as soon as agreement is reached.

8. That it is noted that officials will review all current Commission contracts to consider the potential to reduce costs and to identify all issues arising.

Members also agreed that as a contingency if political negotiations were not successful by the June deadline for a return to normal Assembly business, then they would meet again during the week beginning 3 July 2017 to consider issues arising around the level of services and staffing in Parliament Buildings in the medium term.

Action: Assembly Officials to undertake preparatory work for the Commission to consider at its meeting in early July, should no political agreement be reached and that this should be based on
the three principles of Retaining Readiness, Maximising Use of Public Resources and Supporting and Motivating Staff.

Action: Commission Office staff to liaise with Commission Members to arrange a meeting during the week commencing 3 July 2017.

Alice McKelvey, Legal Adviser joined the meeting at 10:27am

5. Support Services Contract

Richard Stewart, Director of Corporate Services, informed Members that the existing Support Services Contract is due to end on 9 July 2017.

However, the ongoing political situation means that the awarding of a new contract presents a number of issues given that the level of services required in the months ahead could be uncertain.

Mr Stewart talked Members through the legal and operational risks involved with the options available. He recommended that the contract be extend for up to 6 months until the political situation was clearer.

After consideration, Members agreed to extend the current contract with the existing provider and with the same terms for a period of up to 6 months.

AOB

Mr Maskey asked if there had been any developments on the last Independent Financial Review Panel (IFRP) Determination.

The Clerk/Chief Executive advised Members that the current Determination remains in force and could only legally be amended by a new determination from a new panel. She reminded Members that officials had commenced a consultation process with the parties represented on the Commission to identify potential reforms which might be required before commencing to appoint a new panel. The deadline for that consultation had been in January but it had obviously been overshadowed by political developments. It was anticipated that this would have to be returned to urgently by the Commission once normal Assembly business resumed given the length of time since a panel had been in place.

The meeting concluded at 10:53am.

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