More transparency in Commission budget welcomed but further detail required on Assembly reform costs
Steps taken to make the Assembly Commission's budget more transparent have been welcomed by the National Assembly's Finance Committee, but further detail is needed around the cost of the reform programme.
The Committee welcomes the efforts made by the Commission to address previous concerns over the way the Commission's budget is allocated and presented, and is particularly pleased with the openness shown by the Chief Executive and her willingness to work with the Committee.
On 10 October the Assembly voted to introduce the Welsh Parliament and Elections Bill which will, if passed, lower the voting age in Assembly elections to 16 and change the name of the institution to Welsh Parliament / Senedd Cymru.
The Committee wants to see more detail on the expected costs of implementing the changes if the bill is passed and how the Commission intends to meet those costs.
Concerns have also been raised about a rise in staff turnover and increase in staff sickness absence rates and the Committee has asked for more information on how the Commission is addressing these issues.
Committee members were asked why the draft Budget is silent on the specific costs associated with the Welsh Youth Parliament, a key strategic objective of the Assembly Commission.
During oral evidence though it emerged the costs for this financial year were £100,000 with ongoing costs of £50,000 each financial year. But the Committee would welcome more clarity on how these figures are calculated.
"The Assembly Commission has made improvements in its budgeting since the Finance Committee reported a year ago and we welcome the open and transparent approach in working with the Committee," said Llyr Gruffydd, Temporary Chair of the Finance Committee.
"We are content to approve the budget for the next financial year but would like to see more detail on important projects including the Assembly reform programme and Welsh Youth Parliament."
The Committee makes eight recommendations in its report, including:
The Assembly Commission draft budget will be debated and voted on in a meeting of the full Assembly.
There is uncertainty around the costs associated with the Youth Parliament and the Committee recommends that further consideration is given to how the costs are determined, and how they are presented in the draft Budget;
The Committee is concerned by the apparent increases in sickness absence and staff turnover and recommends that further information is provided as to how they are addressing these issues; and,
The Committee recommends that the financial impact of any proposed legislation regarding Assembly Reform is accompanied by a robust financial impact assessment.