Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2014/2015

Date: 24 June 2015

Meeting Venue: Room 106, Parliament Buildings

Meeting date: Wednesday 24 June 2015                        

Meeting Time: 1.20pm

Commission Members:

The Speaker
Ms Paula Bradley MLA
Ms Caitríona Ruane MLA
Mr Sam Gardiner MBE JP MLA
Mrs Judith Cochrane MLA
Mr Pat Ramsey MLA



Officials present:                 

Mr T Reaney
Mr S Welch
Mr J Stewart
Mr R Stewart
Dr G McGrath
Mr H Widdis
Mr R Ramsey
Mr J Gilsenan
Ms P Carson.

Others in attendance:         

Mr C McKenna, SARC representative








Ms Ruane requested amendments to the minutes of 17 June 2015.

Action: Officials to circulate revised draft for approval of Members. 


5.1       Equality Screening Report – Assembly Commission Questions.

The Speaker advised Members that he was keen to reach an agreed position and that, without agreement, the next step would be an Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) with associated costs.

The Speaker advised that officials will bring the details of managing an EQIA to the Commission in September. 

Agreement:  Members agreed to continue discussions in advance of the next Commission meeting.

Action: Officials to scope details of EQIA for consideration at September 2015 meeting.

5.2       Child Care Scheme  

The Director of Corporate Services spoke to his paper giving details of a phased ending of the current Child Care Scheme as requested by Members. He advised Members funding this option would require money to be found elsewhere within the budget.

Mr Ramsey asked if the implementation of a phased ending would cause undue pressure on the Finance Office.  Mr Stewart advised that staff were able to process the phased ending but the voucher provider would be required to run workshops for staff.

1.43pm - The meeting was suspended for a vote in the Chamber.

1.57pm – The meeting resumed.

Mrs Cochrane advised that she was not able support ta staggered ending to the current scheme and that the budget was to ensure the delivery of the essential duties for the Assembly.  She proposed that the scheme should cease at the end of July 2015 as staff had been informed of the changes several months ago.

Ms Ruane advised that the changes needed to be reasonable due to the lack of available child care providers in Northern Ireland.  She agreed that the scheme needed to end sooner for those at higher grades.

Mrs Cochrane advised that staff needed to be aware that the Child Care Voucher Scheme would be ending in the Autumn.  Ms Bradley suggested providing this information to allow staff to make an informed decision as whether the Voucher Scheme or the proposed new Government scheme would suit them best.

Ms Ruane queried if IFRP had responded to the Commission’s letter regarding ending the Child Care Scheme for Members.  The Speaker advised that no further correspondence had been received.

Ms Cochrane advised that the Commission should write to all Members regarding availing of the new Child Care Scheme.  She also queried what service the Commission was willing to cut in order to finance the suggested extension to the scheme.

Decision: The Commission agreed that the current salary plus scheme will end for Assembly Grade 6 and above on 31 July 2015.  Staff at Assembly Grade 7 and 8 will continue to avail of the salary plus element (as well as availing of the salary sacrifice arrangements) until 31 October 2015.

Action:     Notify IFRP of the Commission’s Decision.

                   Notify TUS and all staff.

5.3       Security Review Models

Mr Welch outlined the options for a wide ranging security review following the flying of flags without permission on 3 June 2015.

Mrs Cochrane stated that the Assembly should not be spending money on a review and suggested that a Director be given the responsibility to conduct the review.

Ms Ruane shared Mrs Cochrane’s concerns and suggested that, as the Assembly has a Service Level Agreement with the PSNI, an approach should be made to the PSNI to request a review.

Mr Ramsey queried if the competency was available within the organisation and advised that the PSNI’s appraisal of the security risk was fundamental.

Mr Welch clarified that the PSNI threat assessment was not a review as it only takes into account external forces and not how the building’s security is managed. 

Following discussions, it was agreed that in the Speaker would write to the PSNI to request a review of security and a summary of the internal security review work following the flags incident would be distributed to Commission Members.

Action:     Speaker to write to the PSNI requesting security review.

Summary of the internal security review work following the flag incident to be distributed to Commission Members.

6. Correspondence

6.1       Cycle to Work

Members noted the correspondence from the Chair of the Regional Development Committee.

6.2       CAL Committee Correspondence

Members noted the correspondence from the Chair of the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee and agreed to distribute a list of defibrillator locations in Parliament Buildings.  Members also discussed issues surrounding insurance, cost and training for defibrillators in Constituency offices. 


Action:     List of defibrillator locations in Parliament Buildings to be            distributed to Members.

Director of Facilities to check the feasibility of displaying the location of defibrillators in Parliament Buildings on the Assembly Website.

6.3       Scheduling of Executive Business

Members noted the Speaker’s letter to OFMdFM on this issue.


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

7.1       Corporate Risk Register

Mr Reaney advised Commission Members that the Corporate Risk Register is reviewed by SMG on a monthly basis and at each meeting of SARC.  Mr McKenna advised that the overall level of assurance in 2014/15 was “Satisfactory”. He added that the Risk Register was a living document and had proved very useful. He noted that the UK Government’s Budget to be announced on 8 July 2015 may impact on risks in the register.

7.2       Commission SARC Member

Mr Reaney advised Commission Members that, as Mr Weir had been the Commission representative on SARC, a replacement was required.  Mr Ramsey agreed to be the new Commission Member on SARC.

7.3       Portfolio Members

Mr Reaney outlined the current portfolio allocations. It was agreed that Ms Bradley would replace Mr Weir as the portfolio Member for the Legal and Governance Directorate.

7.4       Recruitment Advertising

Mr Reaney sought the views of Commission Members on the costs and approach to forthcoming recruitment advertisements for the NI Public Service Ombudsperson, Clerk/Chief Executive, Examiner of Statutory Rules and a limited number of specialist posts. 

Mr Reaney advised that the advertisements would be placed in 3 local newspapers and the Assembly Website.  Ms Ruane questioned the need for the advertisement to be placed in 3 papers and not just 2 to save on costs.  Ms Ruane also advised that she would be content for some Irish translation to be provided within the body of the advertisement.

Mrs Cochrane suggested the use of advertising in non-newspaper recruitment websites.

Action:           Place advertisements in English with Job Title and ‘For Further Information’ details in Irish.

Report back on the cost of advertising on non-newspaper recruitment websites.


The Commission was asked to note the correspondence received from the Department of Finance and Personnel on 12 March 2015 regarding Shared Services.

The correspondence asks Accounting Officers to note the requirement for all central government Departments and their NDPBs to work with Enterprise Shared Services (ESS) to consider the extension of shared service coverage.


In light of the correspondence, Members agreed to consider the Commission’s current policy of no further externalisation of services.

Action:           Paper on Shared Services options to be bought to the next Commission Meeting.


The Director of Information and Outreach requested that the Commission note the progress of the Gender Action Plan Working Group.  Ms Ruane commended the ongoing work and made reference to recent comments made by the Commissioner for Public Appointments.  Ms Ruane advised that she would be happy to meet with the outgoing Commissioner to discuss his frustrations.  Mr Stewart advised that he would be happy to invite the Commissioner to a meeting.

Action:           Director of Information and Outreach to arrange a meeting with the outgoing Commissioner for Public Appointments.


The Director of Information and Outreach advised Commission Members that the Media Handbook is currently out of date and asked for their approval to update it to reflect current practices of allowing persons/groups to be interviewed in the Great Hall.

Ms Ruane queried if there would be control over incitement.  Mr Stewart advised that this overlaps with another policy and that it was difficult to draw up guideline to cover this area unless someone is committing a crime. 

Agreed:         Changes to the Media Handbook agreed with inclusion of unacceptable behaviours.


The Commission considered the Digital First Strategy EQIA Consultation Report.

Agreed:         The Digital First Strategy to go out to consultation.

12.       SARC ANNUAL REPORT 2014-15

Mr McKenna advised Commission Members that the overall level of assurance in 2014-15 was ‘satisfactory’ and that he found his attendance at the Assembly Commission meetings very useful.  Ms Ruane noted the significant improvement, in particular the approach to procurement and the use of public money.  Mr Ramsey commended the work of the Internal Audit team.

13.       AOB  

13.1    A request to light Parliament Building

Members declined a request to light Parliament Buildings as it did not meet the criteria as laid out in the policy.


The next meeting will take place on Wednesday 16 September 2015 at 2pm in Room 106.       

The Commission moved into closed session at 3.17 pm


15.1    Ill Health Retirement of a Member

15.2    Voluntary Exit Scheme

15.3    Clerk/Chief Executive Recruitment Process

15.4    Private meeting with Colm McKenna, Chair of SARC

The meeting ended at 4 pm

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