National Assembly Commission budget needs more detail
More detail is needed in the National Assembly Commission’s budget for the 2018/19 financial year, according to a National Assembly committee.
The Finance Committee have raised concerns about the Commission’s proposal to increase its budget at a time of austerity across the public sector and the Committee wants greater transparency in a number of areas in the draft budget. The Commission has proposed a £56.8 million budget for the next financial year.
The Committee have previously raised concerns over the Commission’s spending plans for the underspend from the Remuneration Board’s determination – money left over when Assembly Member salaries, pensions and expenses have been allocated – these concerns have been raised by Members again who question the validity of making spending plans based on a planned underspend.
The Committee have rejected plans for a ring fenced budget of £700,000 for a possible new building, on the basis that further information and consultation is needed with Members before this decision is taken.
And the Committee has asked for information about Assembly Commission staffing levels, but was supportive of a recent staffing review being undertaken at the request of the Chief Executive.
“A functioning legislature is essential for a healthy democracy, but we are not immune to the austerity being felt by so many public sector organisations, including our hospitals and schools,” said Simon Thomas AM, Chair of the Finance Committee.
“The plans outlined by the Commission are wide-ranging, ambitious and a key part of developing the way people interact with and shape the work of the Assembly in the future.
“But we must never lose sight of the need to be accountable, to reflect and recognise what is going on around us, and to wring the last drop of efficiency out of every penny we spend.”
The Committee makes 10 recommendations in its report, including:
Given the continued and expected cuts across the public service in Wales and based on the indicative figures provided in the draft Budget documentation the Committee recommends that in the remaining years of this Assembly, the Commission’s budget should not be in excess of any changes to the Welsh Block Grant;
That the final budget is amended to remove the ring- fenced £700,000 requested to progress a planning application for a new building. It believes that should there be a need to progress this application, the Commission should request the funding via a supplementary budget, or budget for future years; and
That the Commission provide an in-year update (before the end of each calendar year) on likely Remuneration Board underspend along with any significant changes to planned projects to be funded using these underspends.
The National Assembly Commission budget will be debated and voted on during Plenary next month.
Read the full report: Scrutiny of the Assembly Commission Draft Budget 2018-19