|Llyr Gruffydd AC||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Mark Reckless AC|
|Mick Antoniw AC||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Alun Davies|
|Substitute for Alun Davies|
|Mike Hedges AC|
|Nick Ramsay AC|
|Rhianon Passmore AC|
|Rhun ap Iorwerth AC|
|Lesley Griffiths AC||Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig|
|Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs|
|Manon Antoniazzi||Prif Weithredwr a Chlerc y Cynulliad|
|Chief Executive and Clerk of the Assembly|
|Nia Morgan||Cyfarwyddwr Cyllid, Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru|
|Director of Finance, National Assembly for Wales|
|Suzy Davies AC||Comisiynydd ar gyfer y Gyllideb a Llywodraethu|
|Commissioner for Budget and Governance|
|Tom Henderson||Uwch Reolwr Biliau, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Senior Bill Manager, Welsh Government|
|Leanne Hatcher||Ail Glerc|
|Samantha Williams||Dirprwy Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiant||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Papurau i’w nodi||2. Papers to note|
|3. Sesiwn dystiolaeth: Goblygiadau ariannol Bil Anifeiliaid Gwyllt a Syrcasau (Cymru)||3. Evidence session: Financial implications of the Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill|
|4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o ran o’r cyfarfod hwn (Eitem 5 ac Eitem 7) ac o’r cyfarfod yn ei gyfanrwydd ar 9 Hydref 2019||4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from part of this meeting (Items 5 and 7) and the whole of the next meeting on 9 October 2019|
|6. Sesiwn dystiolaeth: Craffu ar Gyllideb Ddrafft Comisiwn y Cynulliad 2020-21||6. Evidence session: Scrutiny of the Assembly Commission Draft Budget 2020-21|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:01.
The meeting began at 09:01.
Bore da a chroeso i chi i gyd i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Cyllid. A gaf i groesawu Aelodau a'r cyhoedd, a'r rhai sydd yn gwrando arnom ni o bosibl ar-lein? Mae Alun Davies wedi anfon ei ymddiheuriadau y bore yma ar gyfer y cyfarfod, ac mi fydd Mick Antoniw yn ymuno â ni gan ei fod e yn dirprwyo ar ei ran. A gaf i nodi bod gennym ni glustffonau, fel arfer, ar gyfer cyfieithu neu ar gyfer addasu lefel y sain? A gaf i atgoffa Aelodau i ddiffodd y sain ar unrhyw ddyfeisiau electronig sydd gennych chi? Ac a gaf i ofyn os oes gan unrhyw Aelodau fuddiannau i'w datgan? Nag oes. Iawn. Dyna ni.
Good morning and welcome to this meeting of the Finance Committee. Could I welcome Members and the public, and those listening to us possibly online? Alun Davies has sent his apologies this morning for this meeting, and Mick Antoniw will be joining us given that he is substituting for him. Can I note that headsets are available as usual for the translation or for sound amplification? Could I remind Members to ensure that any electronic devices are on silent? And could I ask whether Members have any interests to declare? No.
Yr ail eitem, felly, yw i nodi dau set o gofnodion: y cyfarfod a gynhaliwyd ar 19 Medi eleni a 25 Medi. Ydy Aelodau yn hapus i nodi'r rheini? Ydyn. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
The second item, therefore, is to note two sets of minutes: for the meeting that was held on 19 September and 25 September. Are Members content? Yes. Thank you very much.
Y drydedd eitem felly yw'r sesiwn dystiolaeth ar oblygiadau ariannol y Bil Anifeiliaid Gwyllt a Syrcasau (Cymru). A gaf i groesawu y Gweinidog dros yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig, Lesley Griffiths, a'i swyddog, Tom Henderson, sy'n uwch reolwr y Bil gyda Llywodraeth Cymru? Fe awn ni'n syth i gwestiynau, os ydy hynny yn iawn gyda chi, ac fe wnaf i ofyn i Rhun i gychwyn.
The third item therefore is the evidence session on the financial implications of the Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill. Could I welcome the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, and her official, Tom Henderson, senior bill manager with the Welsh Government? We'll go straight into questions, if that's okay, and I'll ask Rhun to start.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Bore da iawn i chi.
Thank you, and a very good morning to you.
Y peth cyntaf, am wn i, fyddwn i'n ei nodi ydy bod y costau ariannol a manteision y Bil dros bum mlynedd yn fach iawn o'r ffigurau rydym ni'n edrych arnyn nhw.
The first thing I would note is that the financial costs and benefits of the Bill over five years are very small from the figures that we're looking at.
I'm sorry, but the volume isn't very high and it's on full.
We'll sort that out, no problem at all. We'll just change the device.
Ydy hwnna'n gweithio'n well? Ydy'r sain ar hwnna—
Is that better?
Nodi oeddwn i yn ddigon syml fod y ffigurau sydd o'n blaenau ni yn ffigurau bach iawn mewn difrif o ran y costau ariannol a'r manteision dros bum mlynedd. Pa mor hyderus ydych chi bod y costau ar y lefel yna yn cynrychioli effaith ariannol y Bil yn gywir?
Quite simply, I was just saying that the figures before us are very small, if truth be told, in terms of the financial costs and benefits over five years. How confident are you that costs at that level do represent the financial impact of the Bill correctly?
I think you're quite right, Rhun; the known costs that we presented in the regulatory impact assessment basically are for the Welsh Government, because the other costs are unknown. There is a high degree of uncertainty around the unknown costs, so towards the impacts on local authorities and circuses. So, the costs that we've presented are to Welsh Government. But we have engaged with a range of stakeholders, mainly through the public consultation. Obviously, Scotland and the UK Government have gone before us, so we've also looked at their published data. So, I am confident that the costs that we have presented are accurate, to the best of our ability.
And having referred to England and Scotland, what about the knock-on effects for Wales, perhaps, of the shifting forward to Wales of the fact that we're behind the curve in terms of the timetable?
I suppose we are the last of the three countries, obviously, but this will give us a consistent approach. So, as I say, we've explored all the published data that we've got, and we are confident that the costs are accurate. But, mainly, it is just the Welsh Government, so the impact on local authorities and circuses, which would be the two areas that would have the impact of costs—I think it's very hard to know what the costs will be. The circuses, I know, were in front of the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee yesterday, and I don't think they could give any more information around the costs that could be expected if the Bill is brought through for Wales. But, as I say, it would be a consistent approach then, so I think they recognise that.
I understand that in that session yesterday, the circuses did certainly refer to additional costs and what would happen to animals if they weren't being used in circuses but were still travelling with the circuses. Have you heard anything during that scrutiny stage that suggests perhaps that there might be some knock-ons for Government from some of the issues raised by the circuses?
So, I suppose—. Obviously, I've only introduced the Bill in July. I didn't see the session yesterday—Tom did—but I've just picked up a few things. But looking back at the cost analysis that was done, certainly by the UK Government—I think, about 10 years ago, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs did a, probably a bit over-the-top, costing, looking at the impacts, say, if the wild animals went to a charity, for instance, to be looked after. But I think that's a bit unrealistic. I think you've got to be pragmatic and balanced.
But there was a suggestion in evidence yesterday, where one of the circuses said that the animals that were not going to be allowed to perform in the circuses—obviously, the preference, I think, would be for them to still travel because that's what the animals know—one of the circuses said it might be that those animals would have to remain at their winter accommodation, and that would mean, not necessarily additional cost in one sense, but certainly, in terms of staffing, they would have to either leave somebody behind or employ somebody to look after them. So, that was the point that was made about an additional, potential cost there.
Again, I accept that. If they chose—. These animals are part of their family, so, I think, if they then chose to keep the wild animals, even though they weren't using them in the circuses, clearly there would be a cost there. But, again, I don't think, in the consultation, any of those specific costs came forward.
No. And in yesterday's session, they couldn't assign a cost to what that impact would be. I think any decision about how they use their wild animals has probably already been made, given that the ban in Scotland, and the ban in England is due to come into force in England in January. They'll also, as they said yesterday, be able to use these animals in other ways, and I would imagine they probably will, and already do. So, it's very difficult to quantify, and I think the two circuses in the first session basically said that it would be a case of, 'We'll have to see how it goes; we'll see what happens.' There will be an impact; we just don't know what it will be.
You say in the regulatory impact assessment that there are not expected to be any additional inspection costs to local authorities as a result of the Bill. Could you expand on that?
Yes. Obviously, it will be enforced by local authority inspectors. I think there'll be a minimal impact, and, again, from the consultation—I think there weren't many local authorities that responded to the consultation, even though we wrote to all local authorities twice to ask them to respond. I think it was two local authorities who responded, but I know Tom did speak with other local authorities, and, certainly, they think there'll be minimal impact.
Some of the local authorities—they're not required to routinely inspect visiting travelling circuses. Some choose to, some choose not to. I think there's good communication between local authorities, so if one is in a local authority area, and then is moving on, the local authorities choose. So, I don't think there will be a big impact on local authorities. If anything, I think, because of the way the public view travelling circuses with wild animals, if we see travelling circuses coming more often to Wales without wild animals, then maybe local authorities would then allow them to use their land, which they haven't perhaps done over the past few years.
I can understand why you don't think there's going to be a net effect on local authorities. Is there a danger of individual local authorities being disadvantaged, those which may well have lots of circuses coming? Is there a chance that, where they don't have circuses, no problems, and it's not going to cost them anything and they'll be exactly as they are now, but for some local authorities, and it's probably going to be the larger, urban ones, is there a danger that they'll be disproportionately affected?
Again, I don't think that's what we've been led to believe, and looking again at what's happened in Scotland, certainly.
It's going to be a very obvious offence, we think, and it's important to remember that there are no travelling circuses using wild animals based in Wales. They're both based in England—the two that currently do. So, they would have to come through England to come to Wales first. And as much as, understandably, the circuses don't want this ban to happen, they have suggested in their consultation responses that they would comply with the ban. I think those local authorities that do visit circuses anyway would continue to do so anyway, because they'll still have domesticated species, and there are certain movement regulations with regard to some of those species, if they're farmed animals. So, I don't think it would necessarily have any impact at all on the local authorities.
This might seem a rather strange question to put, but I'm sure it's had some thought around it anyway. With regard to unintended costs for local authorities, has there been any discussion around potential release of wild animals? Because, obviously, there's the Ceredigion black cat story, and there are many colloquial anecdotes around that. Has there been any discussion or any debate around that?
No, we haven't had those discussions with local authorities.
But with regard to your discussions with circuses, I presume that there has been—.
I don't think they would let their animals go free—
No, and I'm not saying they would, but I'm just thinking in terms of unintended consequences—that if there were to be anything like that, and I'm sure it would be the last-case scenario, then there would potentially be some unintended consequences.
Well, as Tom has said, we've got no circuses based in Wales, so they would have to travel a bit of a way to get here first.
I think those risk—[Inaudible.]
It's not big cats that we're talking about in the main with these circuses—
We're mainly talking about things like camels, zebras and reindeer, which are themselves, with the exception of zebras, kept. I don't know if they're kept in Wales, but they're certainly kept.
Will there be any additional or reduced inspection activities that may affect local authorities as a result of the Bill?
Will they have to do any new inspections? Will they have to do fewer inspections than they currently do?
No, and, as Tom said, it will be a very obvious offence if there is a wild animal being used in a circus.
—is whether, in the consideration of the Bill, there are any unforeseen consequences within the Bill that you envisage that you consider might lead to additional costs that have not been identified.
No. I'm not sure if you heard me saying—obviously, the known costs that are presented in the RIA are for the Welsh Government in relation to local authorities and travelling circuses. They are unknown. And even though we've got published data that we've looked at—. Scotland have introduced a ban—their ban came into force in 2018. The UK Government are introducing a ban in January. So, we've been able to look at theirs also, but I would say that the answer to that is 'no'.
I suppose if they're unforeseen, you wouldn't be able to foresee them, but, obviously, consideration has been given to try and foresee what might come along, so—.
Okay, thank you. Do Members have any further questions? No. We had anticipated that this would be a short session, given that the financial implications, of course, are quite low. So, thank you very much for your time. We will consider and deliberate your evidence and we will, clearly, report accordingly. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Thank you.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o ran o’r cyfarfod hwn (eitem 5 ac eitem 7) ac o’r cyfarfod yn ei gyfanrwydd ar 9 Hydref 2019 yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from part of this meeting (items 5 and 7) and the whole of the next meeting on 9 October 2019 in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
So, we'll move into private session now, then, and I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi), that the committee resolves to exclude the public from items 5 and 7 of today's meeting and for the whole of the next meeting on 9 October. Are Members content?
Iawn, diolch yn fawr iawn.
Okay, thank you very much.
We'll move into private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 09:14.
The public part of the meeting ended at 09:14.
Ailymgynullodd y pwyllgor yn gyhoeddus am 09:46.
The committee reconvened in public at 09:46.
Bore da a chroeso nôl i'r Pwyllgor Cyllid. Fe awn ni ymlaen at y chweched eitem ar ein hagenda ni, sef sesiwn dystiolaeth fydd yn craffu ar gyllideb ddrafft Comisiwn y Cynulliad ar gyfer 2020-1. Mae'n bleser gen i groesawu Suzy Davies, Aelod Cynulliad, wrth gwrs—y Comisiynydd sy'n gyfrifol am gyllideb a llywodraethu; Manon Antoniazzi, prif weithredwr a chlerc y Cynulliad, sydd yma, wrth gwrs, yn ei rôl fel swyddog cyfrifyddu; a Nia Morgan, y cyfarwyddwr cyllid. Felly, croeso i'r tair ohonoch chi.
Awn ni'n syth i gwestiynau, os ydy hynny'n iawn gyda chi. Gwnaf i ddechrau jest i ofyn un cwestiwn ar y cychwyn, ynglŷn â gofyn ichi egluro'n gryno effaith y newidiadau o ran trin prydlesu yn y gyllideb, ac a yw eich dull gweithredu chi yn wahanol i ddull gweithredu Llywodraeth Cymru. Rwy'n deall mai rhywbeth technegol yw hwn—
Good morning and welcome back to the Finance Committee. We will go on now to the sixth item on the agenda, which is an evidence session that will scrutinise on the Assembly Commission's draft budget for 2020-1. It's my pleasure to welcome Suzy Davies, Assembly Member and Commissioner for budget and governance; Manon Antoniazzi, chief executive and clerk to the Assembly, who is here, of course, in her role as accounting officer; and Nia Morgan, director of finance. So, welcome to the three of you.
We'll go straight into questions, if that's okay, and I'll start. Could I just ask you one question—just to ask you to briefly explain the impact of the changes in treatment of leases in the budget, and does your approach differ from the Welsh Government's approach? I understand that this is a technical matter—
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Just to explain, from my point of view, the main point is that, even though the presentation of the accounts changes as a result of this, the actual operational expenditure of the Commission doesn't. For a little bit of technical know-how, perhaps I can pass you over to Nia.
Diolch, Suzy. Fel esbonion ni yn y gyllideb flwyddyn ddiwethaf, roedden ni'n gwybod bod yna safon adrodd ariannol rhyngwladol—international financial reporting standard—newydd yn dod ar y gweill. Y flwyddyn ddiwethaf, yn y gyllideb, fe wnaethon ni ddweud y byddem ni'n gwneud y newidiadau mewn cyllideb atodol. Ddaeth hwnna ddim i rym. Rŷn ni nawr yn gwybod bod hwnna'n mynd i ddod i rym yn y flwyddyn ariannol 2020-1, ac mae hynny'n cael ei adlewyrchu yn y gyllideb yma.
Wrth drio peidio â mynd yn rhy dechnegol, beth rŷn ni wedi trio'i wneud yw dangos y newidiadau yma mor dryloyw ag sy'n bosib. Felly, rŷn ni wedi gwneud y newidiadau yna, wedyn, yn atodiad 1, sy'n dangos beth rŷn ni wedi ceisio'i wneud—mae'n dangos dwy golofn, un cyn IFRS 16, ac un wedyn yn dangos y newidiadau sy'n ffynnu o'r IFRS newydd. Felly, trio bod yn eithaf tryloyw a dangos y newid, sy'n eithaf sylweddol. Mae'r codiad mewn dibrisiant yn codi o £2.2 miliwn lan i £5 miliwn, ac mae yna linell newydd—taliadau llog o £1.8 miliwn—hefyd wedi cael ei hychwanegu.
Mae cyfanswm y gyllideb i'r Comisiwn, wedyn—y ddwy golofn gyntaf [cywiriad: y ddwy golofn] ar dudalen 31—yn codi o £59 miliwn i dros £61 miliwn, sy'n eithaf sylweddol. Ond yn fwy pwysig na hynny, ar dudalen 32 wedyn, yn nhabl 3, rŷn ni wedi ychwanegu colofnau ychwanegol eleni i ddangos y newid. Ac yn syml, reit ar waelod y ddwy golofn yna, mae'n dangos bod yr arian parod sy'n ofynnol gan y Comisiwn yn 2020-21 ddim yn newid. Felly, yn gryno, newid o ganlyniad i IFRS newydd, ond does yna ddim newid mewn arian parod.
Thank you, Suzy. As we explained in our budget last year, we were aware that there was a new international financial reporting standard in the pipeline. In last year's budget we stated that we would make the changes in a supplementary budget. That didn't come to pass. We now know that that's going to come into force in the financial year 2020-1, and that's reflected in this budget.
In trying not to be too technical, what we've tried to do is to identify these changes in as transparent a manner as possible. So, we've made those changes in appendix 1, and what we've done is to provide two columns—one before IFRS 16, and then one identifying the changes arising from the new IFRS. So, we are seeking to be transparent and to show the change, which is quite substantial. The increase in depreciation goes from £2.2 million up to £5 million, and there is a new budget line of £1.8 million, which has been added in terms of interest costs.
The total for the Commission, then—those first two columns [correction: those two columns] on page 31—goes from £59 million to over £61 million, which is a substantial increase. But more importantly than that, on page 32, in table 3, we've added additional columns this year to identify that change. And simply, at the bottom of those two columns, it does show that the cash required by the Commission in 2020-21 doesn't change. So, briefly, this is a change as a result of a new IFRS, but no cash change.
Na, a dwi'n meddwl ein bod ni'n gwerthfawrogi'r ffaith ei fod e'n cael ei amlinellu'n glir yn y fan yna. Ond dyw'r Llywodraeth ddim yn gwneud yr un peth, ydyn nhw?
No, and I think we appreciate the fact that it's been outlined very clearly there. But the Government is not doing the same thing, is it?
Rŷn ni wedi cael nifer o gyfarfodydd dros y misoedd diwethaf gyda chyfrifydd yr ombwdsmon, gyda Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru—y cyrff eraill sy'n cael eu hariannu'n uniongyrchol o'r gronfa gyfunol—ac rŷn ni wedi cael llawer o gyfarfodydd i weld fel maen nhw'n cyflwyno eu ffigurau. Daeth y Llywodraeth i'r cyfarfod diwethaf y cawsom ni, a dwi ddim yn credu eu bod nhw wedi gwneud penderfyniad diwethaf ar fel y bydden nhw yn cyflwyno'u ffigurau. Roeddwn i'n deall bod yr ombwdsmon, er enghraifft—fe fyddwch chi'n gweld y gyllideb yna o fewn diwedd y mis, rwy'n credu—a byddan nhw hefyd wedi rhoi colofnau ychwanegol. Ond rwy'n credu, os ŷch chi'n moyn manylion ar y Llywodraeth—
We've had a number of meetings over the past few months with the ombudsman's accountant, with the Wales Audit Office—the other bodies directly funded from the Welsh consolidated fund—and we've had numerous meetings to see how they present their figures. The Government attended the last meeting that we held, and I don't think that they had actually made a final decision as to how they would present their figures. I understand that the ombudsman, for example—you will see that budget, I think, at the end of the month—and they too will have added those additional columns. But I think, if you want details on the Government—
Na, wel, mater i'r Llywodraeth yw hynny; rwy'n deall hynny'n iawn. Diolch yn fawr iawn am yr esboniad yna. Rwy'n gwerthfawrogi hynny'n fawr iawn. Mae'r gyllideb i ariannu'r bwrdd taliadau wedi'i lleihau yn 2020-21 hefyd, gan fod ffigur o £1 miliwn wedi'i dynnu mas ar gyfer trosiant staff. Yr hyn dwi eisiau gofyn yw: sut fyddwch chi'n rheoli'r gyllideb yna os na fydd y trosiant staff rŷch chi'n ei ragweld yn digwydd, ac a oes yna berig y byddwch chi'n dod nôl i ofyn am rywbeth o'r gronfa gyfunol i dalu am y gwahaniaeth?
No, well, that's a matter for Government; I understand that. We appreciate that explanation. The budget to fund the remuneration board has been reduced in 20-21, given that a figure of £1 million has been taken out for staff turnover. What I want to ask is: how will you be managing the budget if the projected turnover does not materialise, and is there a risk that you'd need to come back and ask something from the Welsh consolidated fund to pay for the difference?
Well, of course, there has been considerable encouragement from this committee for us to include a churn figure. If you're going to set the budget at 100 per cent of potential expenditure by Assembly Members, then we should realistically include a figure of this nature. Because, in real life, of course, Assembly Members may have staff that aren't at the top of their grades, or staff leave and there's a gap until a new member of staff being appointed.
There's also been some flexibility built into how we deal with our office costs these days. The figure of £500,000, which was used almost as a starting point this year, based on trends of underspend in use in previous years—which varied considerably, if you remember, from year to year—seemed to be a good place to start with that.
It seems, looking at the trend from then to now, that the £1 million is probably a bit more accurate. If, of course, however, that turns out to be too much, then we would have to seek a supplementary budget. Because, again, as you know, this committee has, over the past few years, encouraged us to really separate our own operational costs from those of the remuneration board in the way that we treat the budget, even though the budget is still an overall figure.
Ac rŷch chi'n disgwyl, efallai, po agosaf rŷm ni'n dod at ddiwedd y Cynulliad yma, bydd yna fwy o bobl yn meddwl am eu dyfodol o ran eu swyddi, ac y bydd yna fwy o fynd a dod yn digwydd yn sgil hynny.
And you expect, perhaps, that, as we approach the end of this Assembly, maybe more people will think about their futures in terms of their jobs, and that there will be more coming and going because of that.
Well, it's possible, isn't it? So, we have given our best estimate figure, based on what's happened before. But, of course, if something changes, we may have to come back to you.
Iawn. Ocê. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Nick Ramsay.
Fine. Okay. Thank you very much. Nick Ramsay.
Thank you, Chair. Morning, again, Commission. There's also a—I'll check I'm starting from the right place, yes. There's also £1 million turnover/churn deduction from Commission staff establishment, which is shown in table 4 of the budget, to form an estimated figure for Commission staff salaries and related costs. Can you explain a little bit more about how this cost is determined, how this figure is determined?
Well, I'll hand over to Manon in a minute, but, effectively, it's to do with the trends within the Commission's own spending as well. You'll be aware that we had a capacity review recently, which resulted in a voluntary exist scheme, which has had some effect. But, over and above that, there is the usual churn, if you like, which was a little bit higher than we, I think, anticipated last year. But, it looks, over the course of this year, as if that's pretty much the new norm. So, that's what we've accommodated in the budget for this year. I don't know if you want to go into a bit more detail on that.
Yes. Thank you, Suzy. One million pounds is about 3.8 percent of our staff budget, and so we feel that it's a reasonably prudent figure. The voluntary exit scheme is giving a sort of peak churn at the moment. We have a figure for this month of just over 14 per cent. We think that that is probably unusually high because of the voluntary exit scheme. But somewhere around 10 per cent is the figure that it seems to be settling at, which is below the public sector average of 15 per cent. But I think that that's sort of the new normal for us now. And, therefore, as with all of the budget, we're seeking to be realistic and prudent in putting that figure forward, and we think that that is the most transparent way of doing it, so that you can examine our workings.
I was going to ask that. Are you happy—? You think that, in terms of transparency, this is the best way of doing the staff budgeting.
Yes, taking into account this committee's previous recommendations.
Since the separating of the Commission and the remuneration board budgets, have any previously unforeseen consequences emerged?
I wouldn't say unforeseen. Some of the foreseeable ones have, of course, because we have had to return to you with two supplementary budgets during the course of the year, but I don't think that there's been anything that we haven't anticipated. So, your advice was extremely helpful on that.
We considered all of the risks, all of the benefits, and took a number of papers to the Commission and to the executive board for us to consider a number of the different options, and reflecting the recommendations that this committee did.
Yes. I just wanted to say, first of all, that I very much welcome this clearer budgeting, where you actually take into account expected churn. I think that we always know that there is going to be churn. You know that people are going to leave. You just don't know who they are going to be. You are talking here about something like one in—people staying here for about 10 years, on average, which is not abnormal, unless I have got my sums wrong, which I think is—. Well, the question I have got on this is: are you profiling it during the year so that—? You may expect at different times certain numbers, so you could run it against expected profile so that you can see whether you—. Even though you may well have not achieved it in the first nine months, but your expected profile is the last three months would be higher, or, if you over-achieved in the first three months but you expect the last three months to be lower—. Have you profiled it?
We sit down at least monthly as an executive board to look at the monthly figures. In terms of the annual trend, I think there are probably factors that are more powerful than the time of year, when it comes to predicting when this is going to happen. Obviously, something like a voluntary exit scheme, where we are in the cycle of the Assembly's term, is a more powerful level than whether it's Christmas or summer or whatever. But there are seasonal variants, and we keep a close eye on that in the course of the year.
Thank you very much. In terms of how you prioritise the resources in the draft budget allocations, can you briefly outline the evidence that you've used to inform those decisions?
Well, yes, perhaps I can start with the high-level answer on this: everything flows from the three strategic priorities for this Assembly and, of course, this committee is pretty familiar with those by now. On top of that, of course, we have to meet any statutory requirements, so those are automatically factored in year to year, and then, following that, there's a more operational process, which perhaps Manon can give you more detail on, which involves the executive board and—I've forgotten who is the LT, what do they call them—yes, the leadership team, sorry, where there's internal challenge between those two as well. You also get downward scrutiny from the Commission but also upward advice to us as well. So, that's the level at which the Commission operates, seeing the information that comes to us via the officials who meet us at the Commission meetings and tell us the headline decisions that they've made or headline advice that they're giving. Now, below that, of course, I'm not at the executive board, so perhaps you would like to give a little bit more detail about how it operates there.
Thank you, Suzy. One of the things we looked at during our capacity review, which is now complete, was how to streamline service planning. We've now got a pretty robust annual cycle that involves the wider leadership team, the executive board, and certain control points with the Commission. This year, the important themes that have been coming out include, obviously, Brexit planning, and we do a lot of scenario-planning exercises to try and foresee the different outcomes and the different stresses there will be on the system, depending on how that works out. We also keep a close eye on our rolling programme of estate maintenance and ICT infrastructure to see whether there are elements of that that are becoming more or less important and bringing forward those, because there are quite often large items of expenditure that sometimes need to be spread over several years. So, we need to keep those very much in focus to make sure that Assembly Members are well-supported in doing their work and our ICT systems in particular are as robust and flexible as you need them to be.
Can I just add something to that? I think it's worth mentioning in this forum that processes are periodically subject to internal and, sometimes, external audit, and I think Finance Committee members will be aware that once again we've had a clean set of audit results from the Wales Audit Office. So, the actual oversight of the processes by which these decisions are made is pretty robust.
Okay. Thank you for that. That was useful. In regard to the legislation software project, it's a wide variance, between £600,000 and £2 million. So (a) what is the likely start time of that? And when will you have a more precise understanding of what it is, because it's a big differential, isn't it?
It's a big differential and it's a big project as well, but one that—we've got to face up to the fact that we need this now. We're a primary legislature, and, Brexit or otherwise, the demand on our legislative processes is going to be pretty high into the foreseeable future. The current system is coming to the end of its life anyway and it's not going to be capable of further upgrade to accommodate the new work that we're doing. So, it does need proper scoping work. One of the main things to get across, I think, is that this is a 50:50 project between ourselves and Welsh Government. But what the overall system could look like, the levels of bespoke elements of it, is what's going to determine how much it's going to cost. And I think it's this year, in the forthcoming budget, that this—. The contract is due to be awarded next year, if I'm right, which means that the—I don't know what the criterion for that contract is; it's being decided now, I think, isn't it? Am I right on that?
That's exactly right, Suzy. We are going to be starting with the pre-qualification phase of the procurement next month in November, and we expect to be letting the contract around about June next year.
Okay. So, I would have thought, if you're at that pre-qualification stage, you will, at the end of that, have some better scoping of the exact cost around that. And, in regard to the 50:50 split, do you see any imbalance between that, in that it could change in the future, or is that set in stone?
We don't expect it to change, and we will be drawing up a memorandum of understanding between ourselves and the Government as well.
Yes. First of all, I welcome the fact that you actually have a range of £600,000 to £2 million. It would be very easy to put down £1.8 million and pretend it's accurate, so I welcome that. Because we do tend to have things happening like that—pick a number somewhere towards the top end of a range and then everybody'll be happy. And I'm much happier with something that does cover the difficulties of actually costing it. My question is, though: how long do you expect this piece of software to last? You'll have to upgrade it again in the future. Is it a three-year, five-year, or 10-year expectation?
That's a good question. Obviously, it is the nature of ICT systems that they're overtaken. We've had a pretty good go at the software that we use now. I think that we would certainly—. I mean, I'm reluctant, for the same reason that you just articulated, to pick a number. I would hope that an investment of this nature would last more than three years. Certainly, the solution we have at the moment has done that and, of course, you can patch solutions to extend their lives, and that's what we've done with our current system. But there comes a moment when the patches start and the maintenance start not working and therefore you've got to move on to the next thing. And, of course, trying to introduce a level of longevity and futureproofing will be a key part of the spec, but I wouldn't like to give you any more assurance than that at this stage. We will absolutely undertake to write to you early next year when we have a bit more clarity, if that would be helpful.
Value for money is ingrained in everything we do, so it's obviously going to be a consideration.
I think my point is: if it's going to be five years and it's going to cost £1.5 million, it's costing us £300,000 a year. If it's going to be £2 million and it lasts two years, it's £1 million a year. It's a big difference.
Plus patches, of course. There are always pluses with that bill again, but as a baseline, yes.
To clarify on the cost, the range of the £2 million: so, as you know, it's going to be split between us and the Government and spread over two years. So, you take the £2 million, divide it in half, it's £1 million for us, and we've spread that over two years—you'll see £500,000 reflected in the budget, so it's £500,000 in the budget.
Bearing in mind the pressing need for this to go ahead, I would anticipate that you don't anticipate any delay in this project going ahead in terms of the ICT.
No. It's been very much on the agenda for a long time.
Okay. That's fine. Regarding the arrangements with Tŷ Hywel and the window replacement, obviously the ballpark figure sounds really high, and, in regard to what we need to do in terms of maintenance of the building, could you just outline for me, really, the processes in terms of the planned investment in that building? We've mentioned value for money, and I realise that there are many issues within this one, but, of course, we are all existing in the public eye around this. So, really, in regard to leasing it, how are those value-for-money judgments made?
Well, perhaps I can start off. I mean, everybody is aware that the building is here on a long-term lease, which I think was a decision that predates all of us around here. So, we are where we are with that and, of course, the commercial lease on the terms that this was taken on is far from unusual, with a repairing lease, of course. Bearing in mind we've got an obligation to house Welsh Government as well as ourselves, it's important that the building is as good as it can be without costing too much money.
There's some recent work that was done on looking at the windows, because complaints that have come in from Assembly Members and Commission staff about windows not opening and windows not closing, and some of them perhaps a bit more dangerous than others, have meant that we can't afford to put this work off any longer. In fact, if Jenny Rathbone were here today, she might be asking us about the environmental consequences of having these poor windows, and the research that we've had back shows that, yes, we are leaking heat from some of these windows, so it does need to be done. The money that's in the budget for the forthcoming year, bearing in mind it's going to be expensive, is to help us understand how the work can be done over a period of time, rather than trying to cram it all into one year, because if you put up scaffolding somewhere, it's not worthwhile just doing it for one window, you have to do it for—I don't know—a wall of windows. So, it can't be put off any longer. We need help to decide the order in which it needs to be done in the most cost-effective way as well, and that's where the value-for-money element comes in first of all. There's then the question about how long do we keep the building. Some of you may know that the lease already contains not just an opportunity, but if we want to extend the lease we can; it's an obligation on the landlord.
So, with regard to the processes of assessment, you've mentioned complaints from Assembly Members—and putting the issue around carbon neutrality to one side—but in regard to that process of how you assess that these windows, without that feasibility study, because it's coming next, in a sense, how has it been decided that they need to be replaced? Is it just levels of complaint, or what is the process around that?
Well, they're coming to the end of their life, anyway. I think they've been in for about 28 years, or something like that.
That's right. We rely on the professional skills of our estate team and of the contractors whose job it is to maintain this building to give us advice as to when various parts of the infrastructure are reaching a critical point. As Suzy said, we're within the expected range of conclusion of the lifespan of the windows at the moment. This building is in a fairly exposed place in terms of the weather, which doesn't make it any easier. So, given, as Suzy said, we have the option to extend the lease on this building for 25 years, beyond the 13 years still to run on the lease—and it is a full repairing lease—that is one of the larger items of infrastructure spending that is best done in a planned and prudent way. We're going to be taking advice during the financial year we're talking to you about, about how to do that in the least disruptive way possible, whether it's a facade at a time or spreading it over three years or five years or whatever. But we feel that that is the way of getting best value for money for the Commission, and also there will be some benefits in terms of putting in new modern windows that are better with heat.
And in regard to it being a full repairing lease, it's not deemed as infrastructure for the landlord, then; it's definitively ours to deliver on that.
Well, it could be £4 million by the end, all told, but that is what we're investigating now. It won't be £4 million, obviously, in the coming year. So, we'll be looking into it over a longer period of time.
On the subject of the lease—I don't know if I'm straying a little bit out from your question—but it would be common with 10 years left on the lease, so in other words, within the next couple of years, to be talking to the landlord about whether we can acquire the building, either outright or over a period of years, and that, obviously, is going to be an important conversation for us to start to have in terms of continuing value for money. And we will be thinking of entering into those conversations over the next couple of years. It'll probably be a decision for the next Commission to make.
Yes. Just following on from that and in terms of procurement—Welsh procurement, if possible, you'll be looking at.
We would certainly be looking at that, yes.
I'm just thinking it's a lot of money, but at the same time, if some Welsh businesses can benefit, then that's obviously for the best, isn't it?
And the other final thing, I believe: is the £345,000 phase 1 of this replacement set in the draft budget?
You explain, Nia.
We had £345,000 included in the current year budget, 2019-20. When we started looking closely at it, we realised we needed to do a full feasibility study, so we've taken the £345,000 of this current year budget—2019-20—and replaced that with a £50,000 provision in 2020's [correction: 2020-21's] budget to do a feasibility study. So, we're not including any amounts to actually do the work; it's the feasibility to see the best way to phase it, when to start it and how to do the procurement.
Okay, thank you for outlining some of those issues. Okay, thank you, Chair.
Suzy, you wrote to us in May highlighting an increase in establishment staffing from 491 to 497, yet the budget papers appear to be based on an establishment of 501, and we think there are also two additional posts for the standards commissioner that aren't within that. Could you clarify what figures we are working to on this permanent establishment?
I thought that the two staff for the commissioner were going to be in the budget, or was that the next round?
They're in place at the moment, and we're funding them in the current year.
In the current year, from the extra turnover that we've achieved as a result of the VES. But because the turnover being achieved by the VES isn't sustainable into 2020-21, we will need funding for that staffing. So, they're additional to the 501.
But they're in the budget. Yes, they are in the budget for next year. That's what I was trying to get to, I thought they were.
The VES, of course, achieved a great deal, but it didn't quite get there with what we needed for the overall change that was based on what the capacity review told us, and that's why the Commission agreed that we would, on a case-by-case basis, really, allow the Commission staff to increase the headcount over the agreed 494, I think it was. Every single one of those jobs didn't come to us—it had been looked at by the executive board. Did we need them? Could we acquire space for them in the capacity space that had been released by the VES? It was concluded 'no', so we got a little bit of headroom, and we haven't actually reached the full headroom that was asked for, which was 10 extra members of staff, and we haven't gone for that.
So, we've got the two control mechanisms: budget and then the permanent staff headcount. I asked about the 491 to 497 in your letter, and then 501 in the budget plus two, potentially, and you mentioned 494.
An error on my part, sorry about that. Do you want to take us through the detail of how that arose?
When we started the conversation with the Finance Committee about restraining the growth of our staff numbers, we were asked to focus on the number of staff that we had, and, obviously, as you'll be aware, there are many ways of counting that. There's a full-time equivalent number, which we publish annually at the time of the annual report. There is headcount, which is different again. But the number that we focused on was our establishment number, so the number of posts, because that, we thought, was a useful focus. It takes out any confusion if people are job sharing or if people are on maternity leave, so, effectively, two people are in the same post and so on.
So, we focused on the posts, and the number of posts that we had in that year was 491, and so we undertook to keep that stable for a year, which we did. Beyond that, we started to encounter the drawbacks of just focusing on establishment numbers, as opposed to affordability in the budget, because there was a danger that there would be grade inflation in the staff numbers, because we were encountering new, higher needs, and needing to respond to that without increasing the sheer numbers of staff. So, even though we did our best to restrain numbers by putting forward the voluntary exit scheme, we still felt, beyond that, we needed a little bit of headroom again.
So, from 491, we asked the Commission whether we could increase by up to 10, which they agreed to, which would be 501. In the event, we only took permission to recruit six of those posts, which put us up to 497. So, 497 is what we have budgeted for next year. If we go beyond that 497, we will have to deal with affordability issues in other ways and find savings to fund those.
The two posts for the standards commissioner are probably worth mentioning particularly. There is an important principle that the staff who work for the standards commissioner are separate and independent, so that the separation of his duties is respected. The standards commissioner's most recent annual report shows that his workload has doubled, and whereas the work supporting the standards commissioner used to, years ago, be deliverable with just part of one member of staff—so, the most practical solution was for a member of staff to be partially working for us and partially working for the standards commissioner; that was enough and it was a practical and prudent solution to providing that staff resource—now, we need two full-time members of staff working for him. So although we found the budget, we then run up against the staff numbers. So that is a new and separate function that we consider to be outside the 497 establishment number.
I understand the requirement for the standards commissioner to have independence with his staff. We had, separately, a discussion yesterday around standards-related issues in Plenary, and I just wonder, with the adoption of the dignity and respect policies and some of the arguments we heard yesterday, what sort of governance mechanism have we had to feed back to Assembly Members the implications of these additional policies or the way the standards function is developing in terms of staff. The fact that there are going to be two more permanent people just for the standards commissioner, when was that considered as an implication of the changes and development we were seeing, and who approved that? Are we clear as an Assembly that that's what we want in light of the extra costs associated with the policies?
Well, I think it's a timely question to ask, and it is something—. We are legally obliged to provide the standards commissioner with the resources that he considers he needs to carry out his job. It's something that we will be flagging with the Standards of Conduct Committee, because obviously it's the standards committee, as the committee of AMs, that we look to to give us our guidance about matters of the system here and how it works, and it may be that we need to develop that in future.
But this is quite new. You'd need to question the standards commissioner, but I'm not sure that any of us is sure yet whether we have reached a steady state. There are wider societal pressures here, and we're not immune to them in the Assembly, so I think it's early days to be drawing large conclusions, but that's the provision we're making at the moment.
So, can you point to any point where the potential cost and staffing implications for the standards commissioner of the dignity and respect policy and its implementation and incorporation were considered and a committee or Assembly Members or the Commission came to the view, 'We recognise that there are going to be these extra costs and we have a legal duty to provide them, but we think it is worth while and a priority for spending in light of the attractions, if there are any, of the dignity and respect policy'?
I would say we are incorporating those extra costs at the moment, so it's the post numbers that we're drawing a line around.
Okay. Moving on, and I think probably finally from me, I just wanted to ask in terms of lessons learned from the voluntary exit programme. We were told in the letter that unlike other public bodies we don't have them regularly, but this is the second one, three years after the previous one, which strikes me as relatively regular, and I just wonder if it's likely we're going to have further of these in future, and whether we think we have got value for money for one that's past, particularly looking at some of the senior posts with the largest payments associated with them, in terms of what's happening in those areas, recruiting new or different people. Has that gone as we would have wanted it to?
Forgive me—will you remind me if I leave out any of the answers? In terms of the scheme, many organisations run them annually, so we don't run them annually, and I don't foresee that we will need to run them annually. This particular exercise was carried out as one of the conclusions, really, of the capacity review. And so I don't foresee that happening again for many years. I think we've discussed with the Commission and we've discussed with you, I think, the possibility that we will do another capacity review in the next Assembly term. That will be up to the next Commission to decide.
In order to make sure that we maximised flexibility and got the opportunities for restructure and reskilling that we needed, the voluntary exit scheme has been a success. We have run a robust programme. Twenty-four people have exited the organisation. There were strict criteria by which we adjudged every application, and that was overseen by unions. We have undertaken an evaluation exercise, which we would be happy to share with you, if that were helpful.
Every one of the posts that has been vacated has been filled in a different way, so either with differently skilled people, or it's been reorganised, or the post's been surrendered or used in a different way to the way it was used before. In the case of the more senior exits, which were the most expensive exits, then part of the evaluation was, obviously, that the cost of the exit needed to be balanced by a commensurately greater opportunity for restructure, with a more comprehensive effect for the organisation. And I'm satisfied that that was the case.
And just in terms of assessing that value for money, do we not need an assumption as to how many of the 24 people who took up this opportunity, and the significant money involved with it for them, would have left the organisation in any event? How can we assess its value for money, unless we analyse that?
Well, some of the selection criteria that we used were: if the individual left, what level of direct or indirect improvement in workforce efficiency could be generated, and would the individual's departure create a business continuity risk or reputational risks to the organisation as well? So, it did include an assessment of whether, if it was possible to tell, that individual was going to be leaving the organisation. As I said, I am satisfied that the process was robust. We did have a number of applications that were not allowed as well, if the benefit to the organisation wasn't considered to be sufficient.
I would just conclude by saying—and I'm sorry, those Members who are also on the Public Accounts Committee will have heard me say this before—that savings were not the primary aim of the voluntary exit scheme, they were one of the important aims of the scheme, and avoiding longer term cost, but the four aims, which I believe were in the letter that was sent to you, were: to allow the organisation to respond to shifts in its skill requirements; improve workforce efficiency—
I understand that. I was aware of that, I'm just trying to get at this thing, and the way to get at it maybe is that, of those who applied for the voluntary exit but didn't get it—how many of those individuals have since left the organisation? And would that not give us a guide as to how many of those we agreed and paid to go might have left anyhow, giving us those benefits without the associated financial cost?
We do have a couple of the ones who were turned down from the voluntary exit scheme who have decided to leave subsequently. However, I'm not convinced that that can be read across into the people who did go, because each person's circumstances were considered individually and a decision was made on them on their individual basis.
One of the reasons why I wouldn't want to do a voluntary exit scheme every year is that it can be quite disruptive, because you're inviting people to think about leaving the organisation and people will sometimes, if they have thought about that thoroughly enough, come to the conclusion that they're going to go anyway. But I am satisfied that the process was a good one and that the organisation has benefited as a result. It's clearly early days. Many of the people who left under this scheme have only left in the last month. So, the initial evaluation, I dare say, we can return to at a later date and you will be kept informed, obviously, of changes as they happen.
Can I just be a bit pedantic and come back to the standards commissioner and the two members of staff? How are they going to be funded next year and into the future, because it's within your budget but outside of your establishment staff number? Is that not a bit creative in any way, not that I'm—? Go on, then, Mike, come in.
Where can I find that cost of the standards commissioner in your budget, in the lines you've given us—appendix 1, 2 and 3—because I've failed? How can we hold to account the cost of the commissioner, or do we treat it just as a fee and he just claims what he wants?
I can certainly separate that out in future. It's been a rapidly evolving situation, and we can certainly do that in future, Mike.
The actual costs of the standards commissioner—we're required to show them within the annual report and accounts. The PAC would have seen those, and you can see those reflected within the annual report—
They're included within staff costs within the budget.
We're required to include them within the total budget.
The cost of the actual commissioner is also indicated separately, because that's a direct charge on the Welsh consolidated fund.
Sorry, just to labour the point, as I'm still confused—so, in future, that will be disaggregated, or not, because this is the Finance Committee not the Public Accounts Committee.
Would you like us to show those separately in the budget?
If they're outside of the establishment figure for staff, I think it would be useful for it to be identified as such.
As you say, it's in the commissioner's annual report.
In the commissioner's, yes. And are these two posts now permanent posts, or is it a temporary arrangement pending some further consideration?
They are permanent posts in the sense that the post holders are employed by the Commission. Whether they are permanent posts with the standards commissioner is one of the issues that we will need to discuss with him about his needs going forward, and discuss with the standards committee. That is what is needed right now, and I will say we're still waiting for the situation to normalise; we can only judge over time.
Just a few questions on the Senedd and Elections (Wales) Bill, and the preparations for that. The sum of £500,000 is in. I've seen the breakdown as to what that is, but perhaps, for the record, just a narrative as to the purpose of that £500,000, and how it's intended to be used.
It is an estimate. It's based on the costs that were set aside in 2015-16. A fairly significant sum—£260,000—was spent that time on replacing office furniture, so we hope that that is not going to be a cost that's replicated this time, because's the furniture's obviously there. There is £150,000-worth of costs around engagement for preparing voters to vote at 16 and 17, as declared in the explanatory memorandum to the Bill. And, otherwise, we feel that there will be certain costs to do with realigning offices, making sure that the accommodation is appropriate here, and covering other costs related to elections. Have I left anything out there?
I think it will cover things like the royal opening as well, and legal advice to new Members. So, some of these are costs you'd recognise.
But for my own understanding, then, because the figures are really the same for 2021 as they were in 2016, 2016 had particular expenditures and wouldn't have been repeated, so were it not for the fact that, if the legislation goes through, there will be responsibilities in respect of awareness raising et cetera, it would probably have been a lot less. So, presumably, in the elections for the previous period—2011—the figure was presumably quite a lot less than the £500,000 five years later. Is that right?
I'd have to check that. I don't—
Okay, I won't push that. But in terms of the awareness-raising part of it, obviously, if the legislation goes through—I've partly looked at this with my other hat on as Chair of the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee, where this has arisen—of course, local authorities are obviously engaged in the issue of voter registration, for example, so there's an impact there. And, again, Welsh Government is spending a considerable amount of money—I think it was £850,000 or whatever—on the issue of election awareness as well, in respect of the young voters. So, we've got three potential pools that are all going to be doing this. Is there any co-ordination of this, or liaison over this, and how that might operate?
Yes. As we've explained, being scrutinised on the Bill, there is a working group and a steer, which meets regularly and will co-ordinate expenditure on this.
Okay, that's fine. The only other aspect is, of course, there are an enormous number of amendments going through on the legislation, as you're aware, and we're fortunate to have that next Tuesday. Are there any potential cost implications in respect of any of those amendments that are there? What consideration has been given to what potential costs there might be for some of those?
Well, yes, you're quite right, because we're in such an unclear position, that's the reason there isn't a particular budget line on this at the moment. But we could be looking at anything between £35,000 to £75,000 for staff to deal with this—primarily staff, isn't it?
There is one consideration that we raised last week, which is that if the budget for the Electoral Commission's Welsh activities comes through the Commission's budget in future—and in future years, then, you will be scrutinising me on that as well—the burden of working with the Electoral Commission, in that circumstance, we feel would give us another member of staff. So, it's basically one more member of finance/regulatory staff to help me as accounting officer oversee that work going forward. That's what we foresee. But, obviously, it's uncertain whether that will go through.
I've seen that letter in another capacity. That's obviously gone to you, Chair.
Bore da. Gaf i edrych ar ddau faes? Y cyntaf o'r rheini ydy materion yn ymwneud ag ymadawiad Prydain o'r Undeb Ewropeaidd. Mae'ch adroddiad chi yn manylu ar y pwysau gwaith eithaf sylweddol sydd wedi bod o ran swyddogion cyfreithiol yn gorfod adolygu nifer sylweddol iawn o offerynnau statudol ac ati. Ond allwch chi egluro sut ydych chi'n paratoi ar gyfer amrywiaeth, am wn i, o senarios o gwmpas Brexit ar gyfer y flwyddyn ariannol nesaf?
Good morning. Could I look at two issues? The first of those is issues relating to Brexit. Your report does contain details of the significant work pressure that there has been in terms of legal officers having to review a great number of statutory instruments and so forth. But could you explain how you're preparing for diverse Brexit scenarios for the next financial year?
Well, you're quite right to acknowledge that the focus—and we've raised it with this committee before—has been on the need for legal support, but the scenario planning goes beyond that. Now, commissioners ourselves aren't involved in the scenario planning, but I'm afraid I'll have to hand over to Manon for the detail of that.
Tu hwnt i'r effaith ar ein prosesau statudol ni, a'r mater o weithio gyda chyfreithwyr a chlercod, yna rŷn ni wedi bod yn cyfarfod fel tîm staff yn wythnosol i flaengynllunio, ac i wneud yn siŵr ein bod ni'n gwybod beth fyddai oblygiadau gwahanol ddatblygiadau. Rŷn ni'n teimlo bod unrhyw effaith o safbwynt caffael yn mynd i fod yn rhywbeth gallwn ni ymdopi ag e o fewn y gyllideb yma. Rŷn ni wedi amcangyfrif, o bosib, £50,000 i £100,000 o gostau ychwanegol os bydd cyfraddau cyfnewid arian parod yn newid, os bydd rhai elfennau o'n technoleg gwybodaeth ni yn mynd yn ddrutach. Mae gyda ni nifer fach iawn o staff sydd yn cael eu heffeithio'n uniongyrchol oherwydd eu bod nhw'n ddinasyddion Ewropeaidd; mae hwnna eto yn rhywbeth rŷn ni'n cadw llygad arno fe. Ond rŷn ni yn cadw golwg fanwl, fel y byddech chi'n disgwyl, ar y goblygiadau hynny. Ond y prif oblygiad yw'r goblygiad rŷn ni wedi bod yn ymdopi ag e yn ystod y flwyddyn ddiwethaf, o gynnydd sylweddol yn y busnes.
Over and above the impact on our statutory processes, and the issue of the work of lawyers and clerks, then we have been working on a weekly basis as a staff team to forward plan, and to ensure that we know what the implications of various developments would be. We do feel that any impact in terms of procurement is something that we will be able to cope with within this budget. We've estimated that £50,000 to £100,000 in additional costs may arise if exchange rates change, if certain elements of our information technology become more expensive. We do have a very small number of staff who will be directly impacted because they are European citizens; that is again something we are monitoring. But we do keep a very close eye, as you would expect, on those implications. But the main one would be one that we have been coping with over the past few years, which is a substantial increase in business.
Ydy hwnnw yn mynd i fod yn dod i ben, neu'n symud i gymal newydd o'r gwaith cyfreithiol yna?
Is that going to come to an end, or move on to a new phase of that legal work?
Fydd e'n symud i gymal newydd, ac mae llawer iawn o'r gwaith cyfreithiol yna, yn amlwg, wedi dod i ben. Mi oedd llawer ohono fe wedi dod i ben erbyn mis Mawrth, achos mai dyna oedd y terfyn cyntaf i ni ei ddisgwyl. O hyn ymlaen, mae'n rhaid inni weld beth sy'n digwydd yn ehangach cyn ein bod ni'n gallu dweud beth fydd yr effaith arnon ni.
It will move on to a new phase, yes, and much of that legal work has been concluded. Much of it would have been concluded by March, because that was the expected exit date at that time. Now, from here on in, we will have to wait and see what happens more broadly before we can say what the impact on us will be.
Pa gynlluniau sydd gennych chi i adolygu, a rhannu efo ni, am wn i, unrhyw sgileffeithiau o gwmpas Brexit, pan, ac oes, yw'r darlun yn dod yn ehangach i chi? Ac i ba raddau ydych chi'n hyderus y gallwch chi ymdopi â'r math o newidiadau, neu rhai eraill, rydych chi wedi eu crybwyll yn barod o fewn eich cyllideb bresennol? Ydy'r hyblygrwydd wedi cael ei adeiladu i mewn iddo fo er mwyn delio â rhai sefyllfaoedd a allai fod yn fwy difrifol o ran eu goblygiadau ariannol nag eraill?
What plans do you have to review, and share with us, any implications around Brexit, when, and if, the picture becomes clearer to you? And to what extent are you confident that you can cope with the kind of changes, or other changes, you've mentioned already within your existing budget? Is there flexibility built into that in order to deal with some scenarios that could be more serious in terms of financial implications than others?
Mae rhywfaint o hyblygrwydd wedi cael ei adeiladu i mewn, ond unwaith eto, yn dilyn y canllawiau rŷn ni wedi eu cael gan y pwyllgor yma a chanllawiau ehangach gwariant cyhoeddus, dŷn ni ddim wedi bod yn rhy hael efo ni'n hunain. Mae yna rhai senarios a allai fod yn ddrud iawn petaen nhw'n digwydd, ond yn yr achos hynny, fe fyddai'n rhaid i ni wneud asesiadau a dod yn ôl atoch chi i drafod ymhellach. Ond rŷn ni wedi paratoi ar gyfer beth rŷn ni'n gallu rhagweld ar hyn o bryd.
There is some flexibility built in, yes, but again, following the guidance that we've received from this committee, and broader public expenditure guidance, we haven't been too generous with ourselves. There are certain scenarios that could be extremely expensive were they to happen, but in those cases, we would have to make assessments and return to you to discuss those further. But we have prepared for what we are able to anticipate at the moment.
Ydych chi'n gallu rhannu efo ni beth ydy y senarios mwyaf pellgyrhaeddol o ran eu heffaith posib?
Can you share with us what the most far-reaching scenarios are in terms of their possible impact?
Dwi'n meddwl, os caf i—gaf i ysgrifennu atoch chi efo mwy o fanylion efo hwnna, yn hytrach nag ymhelaethu fan hyn? Achos fel roeddwn i'n ei ddweud, mae yn fater cymhleth rŷn ni yn ei drafod yn wythnosol. Dwi'n meddwl, er mwyn cael yr wybodaeth ddiweddaraf, os byddai hynny'n fwy cywir a hwylus, os caf fi wneud hynny, byddai hwnna'n dda gen i.
If I may, may I offer to write to you with more detail on that, rather than expanding upon it here and now? Because, as I said, it's a very complex issue that we do discuss on a weekly basis. In terms of providing you with the most up-to-date information, it may be better if I were to write to you.
Buaswn i'n sicr yn croesawu hwnna.
I would certainly welcome that.
Byddai nodyn ar hynny'n ddefnyddiol. Diolch.
A note on that would be very beneficial. Thank you.
Os ydy hi'n iawn, mi wna i symud ymlaen at yr ail faes roeddwn i eisiau ei drafod, sef ymgysylltiad. Mae'r adroddiad yn sôn am bot prosiect o ryw £0.25 miliwn ar gyfer gael rhagor o ymgysylltiad efo cymunedau ledled Cymru. Rydych chi'n dweud bod y Comisiwn yn ystyried ystod o gynigion ar gyfer y math yna o ragor o ymgysylltiad. Allwch chi roi blas i ni o'r math o ystod yna rydych chi'n edrych arno fo? Oes rhai yn mynd i fod yn ddrytach na'i gilydd, neu ydych chi'n bwriadu gwario'r £0.25 miliwn yna hyd yn oed os oes yna ffyrdd rhatach o ymgysylltu, efallai?
If it's okay, I'll move on to the second issue, namely engagement. The report does mention a project pot of £0.25 million for having more engagement in communities across Wales. You say that the Commission is considering a range of options for that kind of engagement. Could you give us a flavour of the kind of range that you're looking at? Are some of them more expensive than others or are you intending to spend that £0.25 million even if there are cheaper ways of engaging?
Well, I think the starting point for this is the views of the effectiveness of engagement with the people of Wales or of the Assembly, and I just want to put on record my congratulations and thanks to our staff who've been engaged in this work for many years now, and reviewing it and reviewing it.
You'll remember, I think it was last year, that we took out of the budget expenditure on engagement activities that we didn't think were working anymore, like the bus and so forth. So, it's an evolving picture, but until Assembly Members are satisfied that we are doing the very best we can on this, it needs our attention. As part of this, of course, there's a new director of communications and engagement who has only recently been taken on and will have pretty serious responsibilities for preparing a strategy for improving our engagement.
Those of you from the north Wales area in particular will know that there is a constant running commentary that perhaps this place doesn't necessarily seem as if it belongs to the whole of Wales, and so there have been a number of ideas being put forward—some of them are more expensive than others—about how we might actually try and resolve some of those concerns. One of them, you've probably heard within your groups, is the potential for taking the Assembly elsewhere for a period of time, but we're absolutely by no means certain that that's going to happen. But that's probably the most expensive idea that we've 'early days' discussed at the moment.
Then, we've also had the Senedd@ events, some of which have had to be cancelled for unfortunate reasons in the past. Assessing the effectiveness of those—those are possibilities that we could be exploring. And, of course, we've just had GWLAD over the last weekend. GWLAD hasn't finished, incidentally. That itself will be going out to other parts of Wales in a smaller way in the forthcoming months—and to see what the impact of that is as well. The critical thing is that any engagement plans have to be impact led. Certainly, we're introducing new key performance indicators on this in the future, so that it's not just, for example, 'How many people come through the doors of this Assembly?', but, 'What was the impact on them?', 'What did they get out of it?', 'Did they leave this building feeling more knowledgeable about what the Assembly is for and what we do?'
So, that's the sort of strategic purpose of changes in engagement. Quite what that £250,000 or so will go on is still yet to be decided and we'll be looking to the director to help us with that.
Ond mi fyddai o'n gorfod cynnwys arian nid ansylweddol i fynd â'r Cynulliad allan i leoliad arall, wedyn mi fyddai llawer o'r £0.25 miliwn yn mynd ar hynny. Neu, mi allai'r £0.25 miliwn fynd ar rywbeth eang iawn, organig, ar draws Cymru. Ond mae'r swm yr un fath beth bynnag ydych chi'n ei ddewis. Ai dyna ydy'r bwriad?
But it would have to include a not insignificant amount of funding to take the Assembly out to another location, then a lot of that £0.25 million would go on that. Or, it could go on very broad ranging, organic events across Wales. But the amount is the same whatever you choose to do. Is that the intention?
A gaf i—?
Mae'r swm yn ddigon i'n galluogi ni, dŷn ni'n meddwl, i fynd â'r holl Gynulliad allan o Gaerdydd am wythnos. Felly, os mai dyna a gytunir, os mai dyna'r cyfarwyddyd dŷn ni'n ei gael, dŷn ni'n ystyried bod hwnnw'n gyllideb ddigonol. Mae yna bethau eraill yr hoffem ni wneud, ac a fyddai efallai yn ddewisiadau eraill y gallai'r Comisiwn benderfynu. Mi gawsom ni gynulliad dinasyddion llwyddiannus iawn ym mis Gorffennaf, ac fe gafodd ei adroddiad ei gyhoeddi dros y penwythnos yng ngŵyl GWLAD. Mae hwnnw'n rhywbeth y gallem ni fod yn arbrofi efo fe ymhellach. Fel soniodd Suzy, nid mynd â'r holl Gynulliad allan o Gaerdydd am un wythnos yw'r unig ddewis, mae yna fan canol o fynd i fwy o lefydd, ddim cweit efo wythnos cyfan o fusnes, y gallem ni fod yn edrych mewn iddyn nhw. Ond, heb ein bod ni'n dryloyw ac yn datgan y gyllideb yma nawr, yna dŷn ni'n cau'r opsiwn yna i ffwrdd oddi wrth ein hunain am 18 mis arall. Os byddwn ni ddim yn darganfod ffyrdd da ac yn ennill cefnogaeth i wario'r arian yma yn y modd yma, yna yn amlwg mi fyddwn ni'n rhoi'r pres yn ôl.
The amount is enough, we believe, to take the whole Assembly out of Cardiff for a week. So, if that is what is agreed, if that is the direction we are given, then we believe that that is a significant enough budget. There are other things that we could do, which would be other options that the Commission could decide upon. We did hold a very successful citizens' assembly in July, and its report was published over the weekend in the GWLAD festival. That is something that we could experiment with further. As Suzy mentioned, taking the whole Assembly out of Cardiff for a week isn't the only option available to us, there is another option of going to more places, and not perhaps taking a full week's business, that we could look at. But, unless we are transparent about this budget now then we would close that option down for ourselves for another 18 months. If we don't find good ways and if we are not supported in spending this money in this way, then clearly we will return the funds.
Mae Rhianon jest eisiau pigo fyny ar hwnna, os caiff hi.
Rhianon just wants to pick up on that, if she can.
Very briefly, in regard to the importance of this agenda, it doesn't seem as if it's that much money. For the postholder that we're talking about, does that salary come out of this £250,000?
The new director for communications and engagement? That's a—. It's a replacement post.
The postholder, the director for communications—?
No, it's the £250,000 I'm talking about. Because in one week away, that whole budget could go then.
It could, yes.
That budget isn't used for the director of comms; they're very separate. That person will have lots of other things to do as well.
Something I've been thinking about for some time—perhaps I'm the only one—is the Thursday morning committees. There's no reason why, in terms of logistics, we can't meet across south Wales. There may be logistical problems with going north, and that's something we need to address as one-offs, but in terms of going from Carmarthen to Monmouth to Brecon, there's no difficulty—some people might think going to Monmouth might be easier. There's no difficulty for us for the Thursday morning meetings to actually look at having one a term per committee, not too far away. Is that something you've considered?
Yes, indeed, I was going to say—it's not for us to consider whether that's the right thing or not.
We really are, and one of the important things that we must do is involve Assembly Members in these ideas. We really do welcome these ideas and we have been trying to engage with the Chairs' forum and with the Business Committee as well to capture interesting ideas like this as part of the options.
And I think it's right to underline that that's what they are at the moment—ideas. Rhun.
But, if you're doing things in some parts of Wales that happen to be close to Cardiff and not in others that are further away—
—you're emphasising the feeling of distance in other parts of Wales. But, we'll park that there.
Rydych chi yn cyfeirio hefyd at y gwaith o wella a chryfhau'r ddarpariaeth ar y wefan. Allwch chi gadarnhau bod hwnnw ddim yn rhan o'r £0.25 miliwn yma? Ie, mi ydych chi. Oes yna wariant ychwanegol y tu hwnt i'r hyn sydd ar y wefan ac ati ar gyfer y gwaith gwella?
You refer also to the work of improving the website provision. Could you confirm that that's not part of that £0.25 million? Yes, okay. Is there additional expenditure beyond what's on the website for that improvement work?
Ar y gwaith ymgysylltu neu yn gyffredinol ar y wefan?
On the engagement work or generally on the website?
Hynny ydy, rôl y wefan yn y broses ymgysylltu. Os ydych chi'n cryfhau'r wefan, mae yna gostau i hynny. Lle mae'r costau hynny yn eich—?
That is, the role of the website in the process of engagnement. If you improve the website, there are costs to that. Where are those costs—?
Yn anecs rhif 3, mae yna linell ychwanegol ar gyfer y wefan, sy'n gorffen y gwaith sydd wedi'i ddechrau eleni.
In annex 3, there is an additional line for the website, which completes the work commenced this year.
Reit. Diolch yn fawr iawn am gadarnhau hynny. Ydy cyllideb y Senedd Ieuenctid mewn unrhyw ffordd yn mynd i fod ynghlwm wrth y £0.25 miliwn yma?
Thank you very much for confirming that. Is the Youth Parliament budget going to be in any way tied in with that £0.25 million?
Na. Mae'r £0.25 miliwn ar gyfer mentrau newydd. Mae'r gwaith bara menyn, os edrychwch chi yn tabl rhif 7 yn atodiad 2, yr ail golofn lawr, 'Codi ymwybyddiaeth a gwella dealltwriaeth'—mae'r Senedd Ieuenctid yn y llinell yna. Mae'n flwyddyn etholiad ar gyfer y Senedd Ieuenctid, felly bydd y costau ychydig yn uwch na maen nhw yn y flwyddyn gyfredol.
No. The £0.25 million is for new initiatives. The bread and butter work, if you look at table 7 in annex 2, the second column, 'Raising awareness and improving engagement'—the Youth Parliament is included within that line. It is an election year for the Youth Parliament, so the costs will be slightly higher than they are for this current year.
Mi fyddwn i'n nodi—dwi'n siŵr fy mod i'n siarad ar ran Aelodau eraill—ein bod ni'n gwerthfawrogi'r budd sy'n dod o'r Senedd Ieuenctid.
Un cwestiwn olaf: o brofiad blaenorol, ydych chi'n llwyddo i gadw at eich cyllidebau ymgysylltu pan mae'n dod at bethau fel y Senedd Ieuenctid, sydd yn rhan o'r cyfanrwydd ymgysylltu yna?
I'm sure I speak on behalf of the other Members when I say that we appreciate the benefit that emanates from the Youth Parliament.
One final question: from previous experience, are you managing to stick to your engagement budgets when it comes to things like the Youth Parliament, which are part of the bigger engagement picture?
Ydyn. Dŷn ni ddim yn gorwario'n fyrbwyll os oes gyda ni gyllideb sydd ychydig yn fwy. Ar gyfer llynedd, mi roedd y costau ychydig yn is. Roedd gyda ni gyllideb o £65,000, a £55,000 a wariwyd. Ond, yn gyffredinol, rŷn ni yn reit dda am ragweld costau. Mae Nia'n gweithio'n agos iawn, iawn gyda'r penaethiaid gwasanaeth i wneud yn siŵr ein bod ni'n rheoli hynny'n dynn iawn. Mi oedd gyda ni £85 miliwn yn y gyllideb ar gyfer ein cynulliad dinasyddion ni, ac roedd y gwariant yn—
Yes. We don't overspend irresponsibly if we have a budget that's slightly larger. For last year, the costs were slightly lower. We had a budget of £65,000 and we underspent on that. Generally speaking, we are quite good at forecasting costs and Nia works very closely with the heads of service to ensure that we manage that very tightly indeed. We had £85 million in our budget for our citizens' assembly, and the expenditure was—
Mae'n ddrwg gen i—£85,000—ac mi roedd y gwariant yn £84,926.
Sorry, yes—£85,000—and the expenditure was £84,926.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Lle mae'r pres dros ben?
Thank you very much. Where's the remaining money?
Rhown ni fe nôl. [Chwerthin.]
We'll give it back. [Laughter.]
Can I talk about staff sickness trends? Back in 2014-15, it was running at 3 per cent. There's been a jump in 2015-16, and it's stayed consistently around the 3.68, 3.54, 3.77, 3.66. It's statistically not changed after 2015-16. But there was that big jump there. I mean, a jump from 3 to 3.68 is over a 20 per cent increase—a percentage of a percentage. I mean, are there any reasons for that or are there any means of getting back to where we were in 2014-15?
I have an interesting table in front of me here. Again, we monitor sickness absence pretty closely, as you can imagine. We're a relatively small staff, and, therefore, a small number of cases can have a disproportionate effect, and we are, unfortunately, affected at the moment because a small number of our colleagues are suffering from serious long-term problems. But there are seasonal variations. This certainly is one where we can track seasonal variations, and, in fact, February was a particularly bad month. We had a 4.5 per cent sickness absence just for the month of February. Now, that is having an ongoing effect on our rolling average even though, month by month, the absence figures since April have been back down below or at 3 per cent. The CIPD sector average that we try and keep below is 3.7. As you say, we are working actively to try and minimise that.
There is an element of that that we keep under review that is attributed to mental health difficulties, and that is a particular focus for us because if people are open enough and feel comfortable citing that as their reason for their absence, obviously that covers an awful lot of different conditions in itself, but that gives us an opportunity to do something about it. We have mental wellness action plans that we introduce where needed for individuals; we offer early interventions with occupational health; we've introduced toolkits to support line managers and introduced structured conversations that include well-being in our performance management regime. So, in all of these things, working with staff networks, we really do have a focus on making sure that people here by and large have a good work-life balance. People work really hard here. There is not much slack in the system. I'm proud to work with a team that is so motivated, but we're doing all we can as responsible employers to support them.
I can ask for no more than that—that you're looking at it and you're dealing with it. We can't try and micromanage it from here and it would be wrong for us to even try to—so, just very happy with the response.
Perhaps I could just add as well that all this activity is audited at various levels as well. And even though we're still waiting for one audit report in, I think, all the signs are that everything is being done well and most appropriately.
Can I now go on to key performance indicators? As is my wont, I'm straying into another committee's responsibility, to some extent, so apologies to the Chair of the audit committee, which might want to go into it in much greater detail. The trend analysis isn't published anymore—or, sorry, I haven't seen a trend analysis published. Is it still being published, on key performance indicators?
Well, the existing KPIs have been in place for five years, and we can give you that trend analysis if you would like to see it, but, ultimately, we felt that we were annually, by now, meeting or exceeding all the targets, so we needed to recalibrate them to give ourselves a new challenge and to focus on the areas that we needed to improve. So, as Suzy mentioned earlier in the context of engagement, in some cases, we've changed the focus from counting numbers into evaluating outcomes—that's tricky to do, but we're going to challenge ourselves and try to do it—and introduced these stretch indicators—so, annually renewable targets focused at the areas we want to improve over 12 months. We're currently looking at Welsh supply chains—procurement within Wales. Sickness absence is one of them, black and minority ethnic representation, engagement, Members' use of the Welsh language and business car travel. So, for example, in terms of the percentage of the Commission's spend with Welsh suppliers, we're hoping to increase that from 39 per cent to 43 per cent in the year we're discussing.
Okay. I will leave any further questions to the Public Accounts Committee and I'm sure the Chair would get annoyed if I didn't. [Laughter.]
Perhaps I can just add that these new—the stretch targets and, in fact, the new KPIs, are all focused on the three strategic aims, so they're clearly relevant to what the Commission's trying to do.
I fear that the Chair will tell me off in regard to this question.
I've got to spit it out now. So, just basically in regard to what you've stated in terms of procurement and Welsh spend in terms of your stretch targets, really, as well—. So, going back to the scale of expenditure and meeting the needs of this building, particularly around any replacement projects, I would presume that that would, therefore, automatically be much in the mandate, then—looking to Welsh supply chains and Welsh subcontractors in terms of any long-term replacement programmes.
Yes. We always look at that. Obviously, you have to balance it with value for money as well; we're responsible for using resources wisely here. One of the things we've done, pretty much like Welsh Government, is move away from procurement frameworks and things, because they don't seem to have been terribly effective. But, just to reassure you, if we can procure stuff from Wales cost effectively, that happens. And, as part of that, we're looking at ways as to how we can break down some of our larger contracts to make it easier for Welsh businesses to bid.
Iawn. Wel, oni bai bod yna unrhyw gwestiynau pellach neu sylwadau pellach—. Na. Gaf i ddiolch, felly, i'r comisiynydd a'r swyddogion am ddod atom ni'r bore yma? Rŷm ni'n gwerthfawrogi'ch tystiolaeth chi. Mi fyddwn ni nawr yn symud i sesiwn breifat er mwyn ystyried yr hyn rŷm ni wedi'i glywed ac mi fyddwn ni, wrth gwrs, yn adrodd erbyn, dwi'n meddwl, 22 Hydref. Felly, diolch yn fawr iawn i chi. Mi wnaiff y pwyllgor nawr symud i sesiwn breifat. Diolch.
Okay. Well, unless there are further questions or further comments—. No. Could I thank the commissioner and the officials for joining us this morning? We welcome your evidence. We will now move into private session in order to consider what we've heard and, of course, we'll be reporting by 22 October. So, thank you very much. The committee will now move into private session. Thank you.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:53.
The public part of the meeting ended at 10:53.