The Remuneration Board met on 27 February 2020. The following is a summary of its discussions and decisions.
Review of the Determination for the Sixth Assembly
The Board’s consultation is still open and the closing date for responses is 24 March 2020. The Board would encourage all Members, support staff and political groups to share any views they may have on the Board’s draft Determination. The Board agreed that it will publish its final Determination for the Sixth Assembly by the end of May 2020.
The Board also met with both the Member and Support staff Representative Groups prior to its formal meeting, which provided an opportunity to discuss their initial views regarding the draft Determination.
Consultation decisions: Annual review of the Determination and name change
The Board considered the responses it received to its recent consultation on annual changes to the Determination for 2020-21. This includes its proposal regarding reimbursement of costs related to changing the institution’s name. As ever, the Board is grateful to those who responded to its consultation. An outline of the Board’s decision on each matter is outlined below.
An updated version of the Determination for the next financial year will be published in due course.
Residential accommodation expenditure for 2020-21
The Board received one response on this issue which welcomed the proposal. The Board decided to increase the residential accommodation expenditure allowance for outer area Members by 1.7 per cent for the next financial year. This will increase the allowance to £9,720 per annum (which is £810 per calendar month).
Political Party Support Allowance
The Board received one response which concurred with the proposal. The Board agreed to increase the Political Party Support Allowance by 3.86 per cent which will see the allowance increase to £999,070 for the next financial year.
Fixed term contracts
The Board received two responses to the Board’s proposal to remove restrictions on Members’ ability to recruit to fixed term contracts by amending the Recruitment Policy. Such recruitment would be subject to an 18 month limit instead of the current six month limit. Both responses welcomed the Board’s proposal.
The Board agreed that the decision would take effect from the next financial year.
As outlined in the original proposal, the Board will now amend the Recruitment Policy to reflect this decision. The Recruitment Policy will continue to state that all appointments longer than six months in duration will be subject to an open and fair recruitment process.
The Board also agreed to insert text into next year’s Determination under the “Temporary Support” section of chapter seven to reflect the Board’s decision on this proposal. As such the following wording will be added to the end of paragraph 7.5.1:
“Any contracts longer than six months in duration must be subject to an open and fair recruitment process as outlined in the Recruitment Policy. Fixed term contracts cannot be longer than 18 months in length.”
The Board believes, that combined, these actions will help provide clarity to Members and support staff on the Board’s changes.
The Board’s decision on this matter applies to support staff who work for Members and political parties and similar wording will be added to chapter 8, in order to clarify this.
Name change costs
The Board proposed that, for value for money reasons, it was reasonable that Members should not be able to claim back the costs of updating items as a result of the name change, such as office signage, prior to the next Assembly election (due in May 2021). The Board received one response which disagreed with the Board’s proposal. The respondent noted that given the name change of the institution and associated descriptors (Members’ titles for instance), that these changes must be properly resourced from the date that they are effective.
In considering the matter against its guiding principle of ensuring that financial support should represent value for money for the taxpayer, the Board decided not to allow Members to claim back the costs of replacing items related to name change before the next election. The Board maintains its previous view that this is a proportionate approach due to the possible turnover in the number of Members at an election and the short shelf life of new signage.
Refresh of support staff handbook and contract
The Board were informed of a proposal to review the support staff handbook by Members’ Business Support. The Board understands that the aim is to make it simpler and clearer to assist Members with adopting comprehensive employment handbook for their staff, as well as to support good employment practice.
As part of this discussion the Board considered the role of the support staff contract and how it interconnects with the staff handbook. The Board is of the view that following the review of the handbook, it would be appropriate to refresh the existing contract which has evolved over time. This would ensure that it is in line with the staff handbook and that it is fit for the Sixth Senedd.
The objective of this exercise is to present the employees’ rights and responsibilities in a clearer and more coherent way, without diminishing any existing rights enjoyed by support staff.
Members’ Business Support will be contacting the Member and Support staff Representative Groups to discuss this further over the coming weeks.
Remuneration for Chair of Standards of Conduct Committee
The Board discussed a request from the Llywydd to consider revising the salary rate for the Chair of the Standards of Conduct Committee. This is in light of the increasing responsibilities of Committee which is now undertaking a review of the Code of Conduct, and considering the role of the Standards Commissioner. This is in addition to its consideration of any reports submitted by the Acting Commissioner under Standing Order 22.2.
The Board agreed that the Chair should be remunerated at the committee chairs’ higher level salary rate. The Board agreed that this rate would apply from 1 March 2020 until the end of the Fifth Assembly.
Security devices for support staff
The Board considered the security arrangements in place for support staff. This matter was brought to the Board’s attention due to the ongoing uncertainty related to the security threat that exists to Members and their support staff.
The Board discussed what additional resource it could put in place to best mitigate any potential security risk to support staff as they undertake their work, whilst also providing value for money for the taxpayer. The Board agreed to fund one additional personal security device for each Member’s office (in addition to the devices that are provided to Members themselves). These devices will be rolled out by the Assembly Commission’s Security Team in the near future and training will be available on their use.
As ever, the Board will keep such issues under periodic review to ensure that it does what it can to ensure the safety of the Members and their support staff. However, as outlined in its last update letter to you, the Board would like to remind Members that they also have a duty of care, as an employer, for their support staff by ensuring they are safe and secure at all times when undertaking their jobs. Should any further reviews of security be required above and beyond what is already provided, the Board would encourage Members to speak to the Assembly Commission’s Security Team, who can provide advice on staying safe and secure at all times.
Senedd activities in the north east
The Board was provided with an update on the announcement that the Assembly will conduct a week of business in north east Wales for a week in June 2020.
The Board noted that the Determination provides reimbursement for support staff travel between “Cardiff” and the Member’s constituency/region. The Board has agreed that during that week, the chosen location in north east Wales may be treated as “Cardiff” for the purposes of sections 5.21 and 5.22 of the Determination. As a result, the limited number of return journeys by support staff outlined in these sections can be undertaken between the Member’s constituency/region and the location in north east Wales.
Reviewing the Board’s effectiveness
The Board also agreed to conduct an end of term review of the effectiveness of its work. The review will consider the effectiveness of the Board’s performance over its term; how it has discharged its functions in line with the 2010 Measure and how it has delivered against its strategy. It is expected that the review will be completed by May in order to inform the Board’s legacy report, which will be published at the end of its term in office.
If you would like to discuss any matter with me, or with one of my fellow Board members, please do not hesitate to contact me via the secretariat.
This letter will also be published on our website as is our usual practice.
Dame Dawn Primarolo
Chair, Remuneration Board
Croesewir gohebiaeth yn Gymraeg neu Saesneg.
We welcome correspondence in Welsh or English.