Note of meeting - 25 November 2021

Published 09/12/2021   |   Last Updated 09/12/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

This letter provides a summary of the Board’s discussions and decisions. It will be
published on the Board’s website along with summaries of previous meetings.

1. Physical and cyber security

In May 2021 we considered the funding we provide in relation to Members’ security, and agreed to receive an update in six months’ time. The importance of this update was thrown into sharp relief by the tragic death of Sir David Amess MP and recent security risks related to business before the Senedd.

We welcome the security reviews being undertaken for Members by Senedd Security and the steps being taken to recommend improvements. We agreed that sufficient funds must be set aside from the Determination’s central funds to deliver recommendations deemed essential by Senedd Security for Members’ offices, residential accommodation in Cardiff Bay and main homes.

We clarified that, in relation to the administration of claims for work in Members’ main
homes, section 2.4.1A of the Determination should be interpreted as the Board’s “preauthorisation” for recommendations deemed essential by Senedd Security to be
implemented and funded from Determination central funds, subject to the Determination’s
overarching tests of value for money and reasonableness. We agreed to consult as part of
our Annual Review of the Determination for 2022-23 on amending provisions so that it is clear that these claims are no longer dealt with under the exceptional expenses provisions,
but handled in the same way as claims for offices/outer area Members’ residential

In light of recent developments, we have also agreed to fund one personal security
device per office (in addition to the one per Member already allocated) and to consider
any future advice about/evidence of increasing needs. This does not prevent further
devices being issued on an ad hoc basis when the security team recommend it as a
necessary enhanced security measure.

We reiterated our willingness to cover from Determination central funds tax liabilities
arising for Members from security enhancements to their own homes. We also requested
that further work be undertaken to establish what agreement exists in this context between
Westminster and HMRC, and to pursue appropriate arrangements for the Senedd and

We agreed to schedule annual reviews of the security provisions/support funded by the Determination to ensure that they remain sufficient.

We noted an update from Senedd ICT on ongoing work to ensure Members’ cyber security, and considered matters relating to our own cyber security as a Board.

2. Strategy

In our last update we reported that we planned to agree and publish our final strategy
following our November meeting. We are pleased to inform you that our strategy has been
published today, and we would welcome any feedback you have on it.

3. Board mandated requirements – employment policies

Chapters 7 and 8 of the Determination specify that, in relation to each Member’s and Party
Leader’s responsibilities as employers, our role as a Board is to:

  • provide an allowance that can be used for staffing, and
  • set the employment framework by providing pay scales, standardised contracts and mandated policies for all employees relating to areas for which funding can be provided through the Determination.

In addition to the requirements set out within the Determination and the standard contract of employment, a separate Members’ Employment Handbook is being developed by MBS. This Handbook will set out both the Board mandated requirements (on which funding is conditional) and good practice/guidance from the Commission (to be used at the discretion of the Member as the employer). MBS expect the handbook to be available in the new year.

During our meeting we gave consideration to the steps we need to take to improve clarity in relation to Board mandated requirements as part of our Annual Review of the Determination. In particular, our aim is to be clear that the Board will make decisions in relation to particular policies where the relevant matter has a direct financial consequence – any further detail is usually a matter for the Senedd Commission to provide as additional guidance and/or templates of good practice for Members as employers. We also agreed to:

  • consult on the details of mandated requirements for time off for public duties as part of the Annual Review of the Determination for 2022-23;
  • give further consideration to key points relating to volunteers at a future date;
  • return to the Board’s Disciplinary and Grievance procedures once the current Dignity and Respect Review being undertaken by the Senedd Commission had concluded, given its relevance.

4. Annual Review of the Determination

The Board reviews the Determination on an annual basis to ensure that it meets the
objectives set out in the National Assembly for Wales (Remuneration) Measure 2010. As part of this review, we consider whether proposals for change need to be made and we
consult on those proposals before publishing the new Determination for the next financial

We are grateful to all Members and political parties who submitted information to us for
consideration as part of our review. We have sought to ensure that our proposals take
account of this information, along with the feedback we have received as part of our
programme of engagement with Members and staff, including representative group
meetings, drop-in sessions and one-to-one meetings.

Our proposals will be set out in detail in our consultation document, which will be
published at the start of the January term, with a six week consultation period. During the
consultation period, we will be offering to attend a meeting of each party group, and Jane
Dodds MS, to discuss our proposals further with you.

5. Other matters

Ad hoc meeting of the Board (11 November 2021)

The Board held an ad hoc meeting on 11 November 2021. The purpose of the meeting was
to consider a request to the Board from the Chief Executive and Clerk of the Senedd to
clarify its expectations in relation to the interpretation of paragraph 6.8.1 of the
Determination.2 The Chief Executive and Clerk had also outlined to the Board her
inclination to take a broad interpretation of the provisions made through the Return to
Offices COVID-19 Fund and the Health and Safety provision within the Office and
Constituent Liaison Fund.

For Members’ reference, copies of the Chief Executive’s letter and the Board’s response are
attached at Annex B and Annex C respectively. In summary, the Board confirmed its
intention that the requirements in paragraph 6.8.1 of the Determination apply to all new
rental agreements and all renewals of rental agreements (but not routine rent reviews
undertaken in accordance with an existing agreement). The aim of the Board is that, over
time, all lease/rental agreements in place will have been subject to valuation and Members
will have received legal advice on the suitability of their agreement. We also confirmed
that, subject to considerations and requirements outlined in our letter, we are content with
the Chief Executive’s intention to take a broad intereprtation of the provisions made
through the Covid Fund to support return to offices (Determination section 2.5) and the
Health and Safety provision within the OCLF (Determination section 6.7), and to allow them
to meet:

“…the costs associated with measures to provide appropriate office spaces in response to risk assessments. These might include the costs for valuations and legal advice
where an office move or extension is the appropriate measure. They might also include facilities needed in these additional/new spaces or work to make them suitable to meet paragraph 6A.1.3, including that offices are safe, secure, and staffed”.
[Source: Letter from the Chief Executive and Clerk, 22 October – see Annex B for the full text]

The Co-operation Agreement

As the body responsible for decisions on the system of financial support and remuneration
for Members, we are considering the impact of the Co-operation Agreement, and the
mechanisms put in place by the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru to implement it, on
areas within our remit. We met yesterday (8 December 2021) to give initial consideration to
these matters and noted that the Llywydd will be making a statement on the implications for Senedd Business next week. We will provide an update on our considerations to Members then.

6. Our next meeting

Our next meeting will take place on 27 January 2022. The focus of our meeting will be our
review of flexible/home working and related health and safety requirements (the background to which was detailed in our last update letter).