Minutes of Proceedings
Date: 22 September 2015
No apologies were received.
2. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
No declarations of interest were received.
3. CHAIRPERSON'S BUSINESS
The Speaker welcomed Members and Ms Janet Hughes of the Commission and Clerk/Chief Executive's Office to the first meeting of the session.
The Speaker informed Members of his intention to return to issues which require agreement at the next Commission meeting on 21 October 2015. This included the issue of answering written questions bilingually in Irish. The Speaker stated that if agreement has not been reached on this matter then the October meeting will include a paper setting out the timeframe, approach and costs to allow the Commission to proceed with the EQIA.
Agreement: Members agreed with this approach.
The Speaker informed Members that a review of disability access in Parliament Buildings was underway following the selection of Mr Andy Allen MLA.
Action: Mr Welch, Director of Facilities, to bring a paper to the Commission on 21 October 2015 detailing completed and proposed changes to Parliament Buildings to improve disabled access.
Ill Health Retirement
The Speaker advised Members that a letter had been received from a Member requesting retirement on the grounds of ill health.
Action: Members agreed to assess the application on receipt of appropriate medical information.
4. MINUTES OF MEETINGS
17 June 2015
The minutes were approved subject to minor amendments.
Action: Distribute revised minutes by correspondence for approval.
Action: Mr Welch to provide further information, in writing, from the PSNI regarding the costing of policing Parliament Buildings.
Action: Mr Welch to provide a written update on the phone lines issue previously discussed at 17 June 2015 Commission meeting.
Action: Mr Stewart, Director of Corporate Services, to provide information on access to the upper car park for staff who are pregnant.
24 June 2015
The minutes were agreed for publication.
Action: Publish minutes.
Restricted minutes for the meetings on 24 June 2015 and 1 September 2015 were agreed by Members. These are not for publication.
5. MATTERS ARISING
5.1 Childcare Scheme
Mr Stewart provided an update on the recent staff consultation exercise and advised that a full report on its findings would be produced in October 2015. He informed Members of a further delay by the UK Government in the introduction of its new Tax-free Childcare Scheme.
Action: Mr Stewart to issue Members with Childcare Scheme consultation correspondence with the Committee on Administration of Justice.
Ms Brown, Head of Communications and Outreach, joined the meeting at 1.43pm
Mrs Cochrane left the meeting at 1.44pm
5.2 Amendments to the Media Handbook
Ms Brown spoke to her paper updating Members on changes to the Handbook and providing a summary of how other jurisdictions manage interviews in their respective Parliament or Assembly buildings
Agreed: Members agreed to the proposed updates in the Media Handbook reflecting changes proposed by the Business Efficiency Programme.
5.3 SP15+ Update
Mr McGrath, Director of Clerking and Reporting, updated Members on progress on implementing SP15+ and informed them that further proposals would be brought to the November Commission meeting for consideration.
Action: Mr McGrath to bring a paper outlining further SP15+ proposals to the November Commission meeting for consideration.
6.1 The Commission noted correspondence between the Speaker and the PSNI regarding the upcoming Security Review.
6.2 The Commission noted correspondence between Mr Alban Maginness MLA and the Speaker regarding the cost of office consumables and, in particular, printer ink
Members noted that the cost of ink was significant, particularly with the reduction in MLA allowances and the ending of the consumables allowance. Ms Ruane requested that MLAs be provided with additional guidance on the efficient use of office printers.
Agreed: Members agreed to forward any suggestions on saving money on ink to the Clerk/Chief Executive's Office.
Action: Mr Welch to provide Members with recent spend figures on printer ink for constituency offices.
Action: The Commission and Clerk/Chief Executive's Office to issue guidance to Members on the efficient use of printers.
6.3 The Commission noted the correspondence between the Speaker and the NI Ombudsman regarding the Northern Ireland Public Service Ombudsperson.
6.4 The Commission noted the Speaker's letter to Minister Foster on the budget setting methodology for the Commission's budget and the budget for 2016/17.
6.5 The Commission noted the Speaker's letter to the Clerk/Chief Executive requesting a delay in his retirement due to the current political uncertainty.
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 Political Developments
The Clerk/Chief Executive advised Members that the ongoing political developments are being kept under review with regard to any impact on Commission business and responsibilities. The concerns felt by Secretariat staff during this period of uncertainty was noted.
Ms Ruane asked if there was anything that could be done by the Commission to address these concerns.
The Clerk / Chief Executive informed members that updates had been issued to staff and that briefing sessions had been scheduled. He was happy to consider any other suggestions from Members to address these concerns.
7.2 Management Accounts 2015/16
Members were provided with a copy of the Management Accounts for the period April to August 2015.
7.3 FOI – Complaint to the Information Commissioner
Mr Widdis, Director of Legal and Governance, updated Members on one ongoing FOI case.
Agreed: The Commission agreed it would not release personal data in responding to FOI requests unless instructed to do so by the Information Commissioner.
Action: Mr Widdis agreed to provide Commission Members with updates on the progress of the case.
7.4 Parliament Buildings Security
Mr Welch informed Members of security measures in place on the roof of Parliament Buildings following the completion of the roof project.
He advised that the PSNI were satisfied that there was no criminal intent behind a recent intrusion on 3 September 2015.
7.5 Members' Expenses
The Clerk/Chief Executive and Mr Stewart provided an update on the most recent consultation issued by IFRP.
7.6 Police Investigations
The Clerk/Chief Executive provided an update on the ongoing police investigations into issues relating to Members' expenses.
Ms McDonnell, Head of Human Resources, joined the meeting at 2.13pm
7.7 Voluntary Exit Scheme – Outcome and Stocktake
The Clerk/Chief Executive informed Members that the process for the Commission's Voluntary Exit Scheme had concluded. The Secretary of State's confirmation that the funds were available to meet the costs of the scheme means that 22 staff who had accepted conditional offers under the scheme could be released at 30 November 2015. The 22 staff (18 FTE) was in excess of the planned 12 FTE but would meet individual expectations and contribute to budget reductions required in 2016/17.
Agreed: Members agreed to the release of 22 staff under the Voluntary Exit Scheme. The Commission stressed the need for dialogue with OFMdFM regarding the impact of future budget reductions on the Assembly's ability to carry out its statutory duties.
Ms Ruane left the meeting at 2.23pm
8.1 Request to light Parliament Buildings
Members declined a request to light Parliament Buildings as the request did not meet lighting policy requirements.
Agreed: Members agreed to review the current lighting policy once the new lighting equipment is in place.
9. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting will take place on Wednesday 21 October 2015 at 2pm in Room 106.
10. The meeting went into closed session at 2.26pm
(Officials, other than the Clerk/Chief Executive and the Head of Human Resources withdrew from the meeting)