Y Pwyllgor Cyllid

Finance Committee

03/03/2021

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Alun Davies MS
Llyr Gruffydd MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Mark Isherwood MS
Mark Reckless MS
Mike Hedges MS
Rhianon Passmore MS
Sian Gwenllian MS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Manon Antoniazzi Prif Weithredwr a Chlerc y Senedd
Chief Executive and Clerk of the Senedd
Nia Morgan Cyfarwyddwr Cyllid, Comisiwn y Senedd
Director of Finance, Senedd Commission
Suzy Davies MS Comisiynydd ar gyfer y Gyllideb a Llywodraethu, Comisiwn y Senedd
Commissioner for Budget and Governance, Senedd Commission

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Bethan Davies Clerc
Clerk
Georgina Owen Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Leanne Hatcher Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Martin Jennings Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Mike Lewis Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk

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.

Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.

The committee met by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:30.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da, a chroeso i chi i gyd i gyfarfod Pwyllgor Cyllid Senedd Cymru. Yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 34.19, dwi wedi penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o gyfarfod y pwyllgor yma er mwyn diogelu iechyd y cyhoedd. Yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 34.21, fe gafodd rhybudd o'r penderfyniad hwn ei nodi yn yr agenda ar gyfer y cyfarfod. Mae'r cyfarfod, wrth gwrs, fel arfer, yn cael ei ddarlledu'n fyw ar Senedd.tv, a bydd Cofnod y Trafodion yn cael ei gyhoeddi hefyd. Ar wahân i'r addasiad gweithdrefnol sy'n ymwneud â chynnal trafodion o bell, mae holl ofynion eraill y Rheolau Sefydlog ar gyfer pwyllgorau yn parhau.

Gaf i ofyn, ar y dechrau, felly, oes gan unrhyw Aelodau fuddiannau i'w datgan? Nac oes. Diolch yn fawr. Gaf i nodi hefyd, er gwybodaeth, wrth gwrs, os byddaf i'n colli cyswllt â'r cyfarfod am unrhyw reswm, fod y pwyllgor wedi cytuno'n flaenorol, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.22, mai Siân Gwenllian fydd yn cadeirio dros dro wrth i mi geisio ailymuno?

Good morning and welcome, everyone, to this meeting of the Finance Committee at the Welsh Parliament. In accordance with Standing Order 34.19, I have determined that the public are excluded from the committee's meeting in order to protect public health. In accordance with Standing Order 34.21, notice of this decision was included in the agenda for this meeting. This meeting, of course, as is usual, is being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and a Record of Proceedings will be published as usual. Aside from the procedural adaptation relating to conducting proceedings remotely, all other Standing Order requirements for committees remain in place.

May I ask if Members have any interests to declare? I see that there are none. May I note, for your information, that if I were to lose my connection with the meeting for any reason, that the committee has already agreed in advance, in accordance with Standing Order 17.22, that Siân Gwenllian will temporarily chair whilst I try to rejoin?

2. Papurau i'w nodi
2. Papers to note

Yr ail eitem ar yr agenda yw papurau i'w nodi. Felly, mae yna ddwy set o bapurau, fel y gwelwch chi dwi'n siŵr: cofnodion y cyfarfod a gynhaliwyd ar 24 Chwefror yn gyntaf, a'r papur arall i'w nodi yw llythyr gan y Gweinidog Addysg ynghylch memorandwm esboniadol wedi'i ddiweddaru ar gyfer Bil Cwricwlwm ac Asesu (Cymru), a oedd, wrth gwrs, yn destun trafodaeth a phleidlais yn y Senedd brynhawn ddoe. Ydych chi'n hapus i nodi y ddau yna? Pawb yn hapus. Diolch yn fawr.

The second item on the agenda is papers to note. There are two sets of papers, as you will see, I'm sure: the minutes of the meeting held on 24 February first of all, and then the other paper to note is the letter from the Minister for Education regarding an updated explanatory memorandum for the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Bill, which, of course, was the subject of discussion and voting in the Senedd yesterday. Are you happy to note those? I see that you are, indeed, happy. Thank you.

3. Comisiwn y Senedd—Dull o gynllunio prosiect: Sesiwn dystiolaeth
3. Senedd Commission—Approach to project planning: Evidence session

Ymlaen, felly, at brif ffocws ein cyfarfod ni y bore yma, sef y sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda Chomisiwn y Senedd i edrych ar y dull o gynllunio prosiectau. Mae'n dda gen i groesawu Suzy Davies—

We'll move on to the main focus of the meeting this morning, which is the evidence session with the Senedd Commission to consider the approach to project planning. I'm very pleased to welcome Suzy Davies—

—bore da—Comisiynydd y gyllideb a llywodraethu. Ac yn ymuno â hi, wrth gwrs, mae Manon Antoniazzi, prif weithredwr a chlerc y Senedd, a Nia Morgan, cyfarwyddwr cyllid. Croeso i'r tair ohonoch chi. Mi awn ni'n syth i gwestiynau, ac fe wnaf i gychwyn, os caf i, Gomisiynydd, drwy ofyn, yn eich barn chi, ydy'r trefniadau presennol sydd gennym ni ar gyfer cynllunio'r gyllideb a goruchwylio a chymeradwyo'r gyllideb yn cynnig y cydbwysedd cywir yna sydd ei angen o ran sicrhau bod gan y Comisiwn y rhyddid rŷch chi ei angen, ond hefyd bod yna atebolrwydd i'r cyhoedd a'r Senedd.

—good morning—Commissioner for budget and governance. And joining her, of course, are Manon Antoniazzi, chief executive and clerk of the Senedd, and Nia Morgan, director of finance. Welcome to the three of course. We'll go straight to questions, and I'll start, if I may, Commissioner, by asking, in your opinion, whether the current arrangements that we have for budget planning, oversight and approval afford the right balance that is needed in terms of ensuring that the Commission has the freedom that you need, but also that there is accountability to the public and the Senedd?

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Well, the short answer to that is 'yes.' I actually don't see the freedom for the Commission to do what's best in terms of fulfilling its strategic aims and accountability to be mutually exclusive concepts, really. The only way we can move on as a Commission in a way that's best for Members and for Wales actually—because part of our remit, of course, is to champion the Senedd as it is now with the people of Wales—is if we have the trust of the people of Wales and the trust of Members. And it's our accountability process that helps us create that trust. Now, we've been before you several times and explained our governance processes—the three lines of defence. Well, actually, we've got four, maybe even five lines of defence. So, in terms of our audit and assurance, externally and internally, we will be sound. Audit Wales always gives us a clean bill of health on that.

But that, then, gives us the platform on which to make decisions to fulfil the strategic aims. So, in terms of balance, if we had to put it in those terms, I think we're pretty much okay on that. From your point of view, I suppose, as the Finance Committee, I'm hoping it helps that we're able, when we put budgets forward, to not just give you the plans for a given year, but the likely or projected forward look for the next two years. And, of course, that's only possible because of the reasons I've just given you in my opening comments.

Iawn, diolch, ac mi ddown ni mewn mwy o fanylder at y cynllunio tymor canol a thymor hir yn nes ymlaen. Ond jest, felly, o ran edrych ar y prosesau yn fwy technegol neu'n fwy mecanyddol, efallai—yr amseru ar gyfer gosod, cynnal gwaith craffu, cymeradwyo'r amcangyfrif ac unrhyw gyllidebau atodol—ydych chi'n meddwl, efallai, fod yna ryw newidiadau neu welliannau y bydden ni'n gallu eu hawgrymu i'r chweched Senedd?

Thank you for that, and we'll go into greater detail in terms of the mid-term and long-term planning in a moment. But just in terms of looking at the processes in more technical detail, perhaps—the timing for laying, scrutiny work, approval of the estimate and any supplementary budgets—do you believe that there are changes or improvements that we could suggest for the sixth Senedd?

Well, of course, it is a matter for the sixth Senedd, as you say. And, as ever, from this committee, we are always pleased to hear good ideas, so whatever your equivalent or successor committee is next time, I hope that they will continue to do the good work that this committee's been doing.

It seems to work okay for us. We're usually first out of the traps in putting together at least a draft budget, which is something that some other related bodies don't have the opportunity to do. I think that's quite useful, and, of course—I'm doing this with my MS hat on now—we get the opportunity to scrutinise not only through your committee, but through the main Senedd, the budget itself, and that's so important. Again, I say that as an MS, rather than a Commissioner, in those terms. So, on timings, we manage to get everything together by 1 October, even though, realistically, that's halfway through the financial year, so I hope that there's some credit for being able to do that, but the processes are in place to allow us to do that, so, at the moment, no, it seems to be fine.

09:35

Dyna ni, grêt. Ocê, diolch yn fawr iawn. Ydy Manon neu Nia eisiau ychwanegu rhywbeth neu ŷch chi'n hapus gyda hynny?

Okay, great. Thank you very much. Do Manon or Nia want to add anything?

Byddwn i jest yn eilio beth oedd Suzy'n ei ddweud. Rŷn ni wedi gwneud ein gorau drwy gydol tymor yma y Senedd i fod yn dryloyw iawn ac yn atebol, ac mae e wedi bod yn help cael y craffu cyson gan y pwyllgor yma a gan eraill, ac rŷn ni, dwi'n meddwl, wedi syrthio i rigol digon cyfleus mewn cylch parhaol o fod yn edrych ymlaen ac wedyn yn gosod cais cadarn gerbron y Senedd am flwyddyn o arian, ond gan edrych ymlaen ar gyfer themâu mwy tymor canol a hir yn y ddwy flynedd sydd yn dilyn. 

I would just echo what Suzy said. We've done our best throughout this term to be very transparent and accountable, and it has been a help having that constant scrutiny by this committee and others, and we have, I believe, fallen into a quite convenient routine in a constant cycle of looking forward and then putting forward a robust case in front of the Senedd for a year of funding, but looking forward to more mid-term and long-term themes in the coming two years.

Ac wrth gwrs mae'r cyfle gyda ni i roi cyllideb atodol i mewn ac mae amseriad hwnnw yn gyfleus inni hefyd.

And, of course, we have the opportunity to submit a supplementary budget, and the timing of that is convenient for us as well.

Ie. Ocê. Iawn. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Fe symudwn ni ymlaen felly at Mike Hedges.

Okay. Fine. Thank you very much. We'll move on to Mike Hedges.

Thank you. How useful have you found that the committee's statement of principles for directly funded budgets has been in preparing your annual estimates? I know that there are difficulties. People always want to spend more money than they're likely to get, so you have to make difficult decisions, but, having the clarity early, does that help?

Oh, inevitably. I appreciate that it's a statement of principles, isn't it, which means that we take it into account in a very high-level way; we don't go down into granularity with statements of principles. But, of course, it's been extremely useful, and I hope it gives some confidence to the committee to say that, in effect, they're the kind of principles that we've been following anyway. We perhaps just had not articulated them in quite the same way as you have in the statement of principles. Being mindful of long-term funding and likely challenges—and let's face it, these next five years will be difficult on that front—. Pressures facing the public sector as a whole are always part of what we think about. I suppose it may not always look like this from the outside, but just rushing to ask for more money is not what we do. We always operate on the basis of value for money, of course, and efficiency, and so those principles are important.

We can't apply them to everything, though. I'm sure the committee understands, for example, that that part of our Commission budget that is basically in the hands of the remuneration board—we can't exercise the principles on their behalf. They have to do that themselves. We have a slightly different way of, perhaps, agreeing our staff pay, for example. That's done on a three-year basis, I think, at the moment, so we can't necessarily mess around with that in between years. So, there are a few bits and pieces that we don't have direct control of, but those parts of the budget that we do have direct control of, these principles are applied to them, and I hope that gives you some reassurance.

Okay. Thank you for that. Committee scrutiny and inquiries—have they helped in driving efficiency, improvement and performance? And what I've found quite often in other organisations—and I wouldn't understand why this would be different—the fact that you have to come here and answer questions actually concentrates the mind on what you are doing, and preparing to answer the questions quite often gets you to do things far more efficiently and is probably of far more benefit than the questions we ask.

Well, you are one of our lines of defence, Mike, in terms of risk management—seriously, this is a really important committee from that point of view, and, if you just think back over these last few years, the influence you've had over how we changed our processes, actually, within the Commission—. The obvious one, I suppose, is the distinct feature that, when we present our budget, we're making it very clear that the remuneration board element of the budget is totally separate from our operational budget. Actually, I hope it's highlighted for Members as well that we have a comparatively small operational budget as compared to the overall figure. That's important, because that's what you need to scrutinise us on, really, isn't it, the non-cash elements. And what the remuneration board does is not something we can be answerable to you about. 

But there have been a few other things. I'm just going to have a quick look to remind myself here—. Ah, the most recent one I can remember is that Mark Reckless raised the funding of the standards commissioner's office, for example. That's the one that springs to mind because it was the most recent. But, talking about a cap on staff costs and things, this has all come through the Finance Committee. And while there may have been elements of this that we as Commissioners and certainly the Commission will have been thinking of, if it's raised by Finance Committee as well, that's a really strong steer that it needs to be a focus of activity for us, isn't it?

09:40

Okay. Diolch yn fawr. Well, speaking of Mark Reckless, we come to Mark next. 

Good morning, and thanks for joining us. How might the Commission in the sixth Senedd seek to prioritise and fund potential projects with costs that are not manageable within the overall funding provided in previous budgets?

Well, this is the end of the fifth Senedd, isn't it, and it's been an important question for us as well. I'm afraid I'm going to have to say, in some part, Mark, that this is going to be a matter for the sixth Senedd and not for me to answer. But there are certain things that perhaps we can talk about, and the first is the point that I've just made. Because of the way that we present the budget, it's become very transparent about quite how much discretionary spending the Commission has in any given year. So, for example, in this year, in a budget in excess of well over £50 million, we've only got £1 million that's not already accounted for in advance. Managing long-term spending when you're talking about discretionary spend that small is quite difficult. However, because of the internal processes of the Commission, there are certain bits of spend that you can plan both within year and between years, and we've managed to do that with the project fund, as you have seen, with our 10-year rolling plan for the estate and three-year rolling plan for ICT. But for the very big ticket items—. And I suppose the one that the next Senedd is really going to have to think about would be something like the windows—the costs related to that are not something you can manage within year, and actually would be pretty tricky to manage across a whole Senedd unless particular focus was given to that and that alone. So, this is where this committee again comes in very useful because it can help us with long-term management ideas when the figures that we're talking about are pretty high. Again, I just go back to the point that we don't just reach for, 'Let's go and get extra money'; we try to make internal savings if we possibly can to manage in-year and inter-year spending. But, for the huge ticket items, really, we have to come to you, I think. 

Can you provide an update on the windows replacement scheme reports, which I think were due to be received in December, and perhaps give us just a summary of the options and likely costs? Will the overall budget have to rise to pay for it?

This was brought to Commission very recently, so I'm able to report back to you now. But, as I said before, this is a really good example of something that we're going to need—if we put this off any longer, we're going to end up with windows that are unsafe, as well as the current position that they're not particularly green-friendly, if you like. But we've had a very—. Excuse me, I'll have to look at my papers for the actual figures, but we've given two options here about the way we could proceed with this, which is done through a study that we've mentioned to the committee before. So, either we can try and deliver this in the course of a year, where the cost would be £4,443,012 plus VAT—so, about £4.5 million, basically, plus VAT—or it could be done in a phased approach—and this demonstrates why, actually, a phased approach sometimes isn't cost effective—over virtually the life of the next Senedd, where the cost would be £4,662,746 plus VAT. So, you can see why that would be difficult to manage with an as-usual budget. Obviously, this is a matter for the next Senedd. It'll be up to them, and they will of course be following the procurement strategy and the processes. 

Okay. And just one more from me, a quick one, on I think a smaller scale: how much is the Commission now spending on making the estate a more hospitable environment for flora and fauna?

09:45

Can I just give you a little bit of steer on this? I can't give you too much, because it hasn't come to the Commissioners yet, but there's a new carbon neutral strategy about to be—well, hopefully—agreed by the Commission later in the month, and that will include quite a lot of detail on this about reducing our carbon output. I don't know if you want any more detail on that at this stage, or whether you'd be okay to hang on to the next scrutiny session, when we'll be able to give you more details.

I will thank you and defer to the Chair for an answer on that.

Okay. Well, if it's a decision that hasn't been made yet, then, clearly, it's a case of maybe updating us as soon as that decision is made, but, obviously, I suppose, in terms of scrutiny, it'll be in the next Senedd, probably, on a practical level, because we only have a few weeks left of this Senedd. But Alun Davies wanted to come in as well on an earlier point, I think.

Yes. Thank you, Chair. I'm interested in how a particular issue can illuminate a wider issue of wider principle, and I probably spend more time discussing the windows in Tŷ Hywel than I have discussing the windows of my own house and the need to replace the windows here as well, because, if I don't replace the windows, there's water getting in, which means then I have to do a far larger job later on in a few years if I don't do that. But I don't regard replacing the windows in the same way as I regard planning a summer holiday. I regard it in the same way as I do servicing my boiler and various other things that need to be done in order to maintain the integrity of the house, the asset. And I'm wondering to what extent is it a good use of our time as a Finance Committee to be crawling all over the detail of a procurement that is not one that has any political element to it in terms of choice or in terms of strategic approach or in terms of whether it's right or not, because maintenance of an asset is absolutely essential, and that's why we have excellent and first-class public servants such as Mrs Morgan and Mrs Antoniazzi in front of us this morning to manage that on behalf of the institution and the organisation. And to what extent—and this is a question to you, Suzy—to what extent is there really a requirement for such detailed political accountability in terms of managing an asset? For me, the accountability would be there if they didn't do that and we incurred additional costs later on because the decisions that should have been taken in order to manage the institution weren't taken. That's where the accountability should take it, and I think sometimes we get into the detail of these things to an extent that is far beyond our ability, and we miss out on the big picture. I certainly don't want to spend the sixth Senedd, if I'm lucky enough to be elected, discussing the window arrangements of every public building in the country.

Am I brave enough to say what a refreshing question? The first thing to point out here is: look, this Commission is not scared of scrutiny; however detailed, however granular you want to get, you're welcome to do that, and the question of whether the Finance Committee should do that is a matter for Finance Committee. There's nothing to hide, and there's nowhere to hide, for that matter, either, because of the way that our governance arrangements work. I suppose I would say that the Commission budget accounts for 0.035 per cent of the Welsh block grant, which is a very small amount compared to the what the Government has as a whole, but, again, we haven't being trying to hide it. Taking these big decisions—you know, £4 million is a lot of money as far as the outside world is concerned, however important it is for us to have a safe building and an efficient building to work in, and it's also worth bearing in mind that the chief executive, as accounting officer, only has the power to commit to spending up to £1 million without the say-so of the Commissioners. And of course, once the Commissioners get involved, you, as a Senedd, are entitled to scrutinise us as Commissioners. You may have a view that maybe £1 million is too low a cut-off point, but I guess that'll be something for the next Senedd as well.

I was just going to say that I think it is actually higher than £1 million. It was put up—

It doesn't affect the principle of the argument, and we appreciate the confidence, Alun. We take it as our duty to investigate the options properly and to lay them in front of the Commission so that they can take timely decisions. We do have an absolute duty to maintain the fabric of the building under the terms of the current lease. You may get on to this later—a bigger question will be how we take that lease forward. We're coming up to the 10-year mark. It will be running out in 2032, and what use we make of the estate generally. These are very interesting questions, and they're tied up with the way that we will be working and the lessons that we'll learn from this pandemic period. We look forward to having that discussion with the next Commission and being scrutinised by the successor Finance Committee as well, no doubt.

09:50

Okay, thank you. Well, that takes us nicely on to Rhianon Passmore.

Thank you very much, Chair. That is the No. 1 question, but I would disagree, if I may, with my colleague Alun Davies that there is scope for us to do this, at this amount of money. It does actually tie in with the future of the building, and I think it's absolutely right that we are looking at this issue, because the public will expect us to look at this issue, at this amount of cost.

So, moving on, then, to the wider question that has just been posed in regard to whether the pandemic has changed your view both on the need for that additional mooted office space to what is already available in Tŷ Hywel, and, obviously, in regard to the amount of money in terms of what is proposed for the window replacement, are you actually satisfied that the building is actually fit for purpose for the future if the maintenance of that building is so heavy?

For me, I don't think we can say that the building is dangerous in any way, but the usefulness of this conversation is to highlight how important it is to keep the building maintained, and that's why we have a 10-year rolling programme of maintenance for the building, and that's why, for a building of its years, it's in pretty good condition, because resources have been managed in a way that has allowed us to keep that up.

Whether we need a new building, a different building, additional buildings—that's going to be a question, of course, for the next Senedd. I don't feel I'm in a position to answer that at this time, because I don't know whether we'll have more Members, for example, in the next five years or next 10 years. I suppose what I can say is that, because of the experience we've been through in this last year, Rhianon, is that it's become apparent that more people are willing to spend at least some time working from home, and that will have an impact on how space is used. We've already seen it to a certain extent, haven't we, and I imagine that the next Commission will be taking that into account in making any decisions about the building.

Thank you. And then, in regard to the COVID pandemic impact on the value of Tŷ Hywel, and the costs of office rental or purchase in future years, you’ve sort of answered that, but I don't know whether Manon's got anything to add to it. How will this impact on the plans, because as you stated, we're in a very unprecedented position in terms of forward planning? More people are flexi working and will continue to do so. Is there any further comment in that regard?

I'm happy to elaborate a little. The terms of the lease mean that we have rent reviews every so often. The next one is due in April 2022. If the market rate has gone up then, the rent might go up. I'm afraid the terms of the current lease don't allow for the rent to go down, so that is going to be a matter for a longer term negotiation, and you will understand that this is a commercial negotiation, and so I won't be drawn on the detail of that now. But there will be a conversation taking place, and we're happy to talk in private with the committee, or indeed with your successor committee, in due course about that.

But just to return to the point you made about more flexible use of Tŷ Hywel and indeed the Senedd, I think we've kept in touch closely with staff throughout the crisis, and we've measured how the new ways of working have impacted on their physical and mental well-being. We've committed this year to publishing the results of our staff survey, and that is imminent now. There's a paper going to the Commission next week to discuss it, and then thereafter we will send the results to you. But we're very encouraged; we've had an extremely good overall score and an extremely good engagement rate as well emerging from that. We have a lot of people who are interested in hybrid working, partly from home and partly from the office. Now, that doesn't mean that we will equip people to have a full working station at home and give them a dedicated working space in the office as well, so it is going to mean a different kind of cost basis and we're still exploring that. But it also does mean that we'll be able to use the space in Tŷ Hywel in a rather more flexible way, and we are using the renovations that need to happen between this Senedd and the next to pilot some of those new office layouts during the next few months. 

09:55

Iawn. Siân Gwenllian nesaf.

Okay. Siân Gwenllian is next. 

Diolch yn fawr a bore da i chi. Ers eich diweddariad ysgrifenedig i'r pwyllgor ym mis Tachwedd ar effaith cost y pandemig ar eich cyllideb yn ystod y flwyddyn, ydy'r darlun wedi dod yn gliriach? Ac wrth symud i'r dyfodol, ydych chi'n gliriach lle mae yna gostau a lle mae yna arbedion ychwanegol, a sut gallai'r rheini newid wrth symud ymlaen? 

Thank you very much and good morning. Since your written update to the committee in November on the cost impact of the pandemic on your in-year budget, has the picture become clearer? And in moving towards the future, are you clearer in regard to where there are additional costs and where there are additional savings, and how those might change in moving forward? 

Yes. We're not too far away from the end of the financial year now and, of course, we've already committed to give you a solid and full explanation of where we've been on extra expenditure and savings at the end of the financial year. But we've got a pretty good idea which direction that's going in at the moment. So, we can say that—. This is as of January, I think, but the pandemic had cost the Commission an additional £750,000 in various ways, and I can give you a little bit of detail on that. But there have been savings as well. We've—[Inaudible.]—by £1.2 million. So, overall, the Commission has managed to save some money on this. I wouldn't like the Finance Committee to run away with the idea that that could be done year in, year out, because what we're learning from this—. Some money will need to be spent in ongoing changes, such as those that Manon was mentioning earlier. So, if we are genuinely going to be moving to, for example, a system where people can work more frequently from home, we can't have people just sitting at their kitchen tables indefinitely. That doesn't mean, as Manon says, everyone gets a brand new office at home, but there is something in-between that will inevitably mean that we have costs for the Commission.

I hope all of us agree that the IT response to this pandemic has been astounding. The ability to do a hybrid Plenary, for example, has been amazing, but there are still things to learn from that if this is going to be a more consistent and permanent arrangement. So, we can't pretend that any additional cost is over for good. The type of things we've been able to spend money on in order to get us through the pandemic have been—. I'm just quickly looking here. So, it's been £125,000 from the project fund—remember we only had £1 million in that to start with—for ICT. There's been about £100,000 spent on related estates expenditure. The tech development for the hybrid Plenary itself was £56,000.

And you may have noticed if you've been in the building, which I managed to do the other day, that the security system that was signed off a while ago but had to be delayed because the budget was so tight, we've managed to bring that forward again. These are the screens that we've got at the entrance to Tŷ Hywel and, yes, I think it must be at the Senedd as well, although I haven't seen that. And they've been brought forward not just for security purposes, but they're helpful for COVID as well because they put panels up between people, which prevent the spread of COVID.

But the way we've done engagement—. I hope Members will have seen that the online engagement has been pretty phenomenal as well, at short notice. But that has resulted in some savings for us, as engagement hasn't cost us as much as it normally would. But when we get back to something nearer normal, engagement is that one area of activity where Members have told us to up our game. And so, savings we've seen this year may not be savings as we go forward. 

And, of course, we'll provide the committee with a full breakdown, as you've requested in your report on our budget, on all of the financial implications of COVID—the savings and the additional costs. We'll write to you at the end of the financial year. 

Fe wnaf i jest fflagio lan i Suzy nad yw'r linell yn grêt; pan rŷch chi'n troi i ffwrdd o'r sgrîn, efallai ein bod ni'n colli ambell i air, ond rŷn ni'n dilyn beth rŷch chi'n ei ddweud, so jest i wneud yn siŵr bod digon o projection ar y llais, efallai, i wneud yn siŵr ein bod ni'n clywed yn glir. Sori. Yn ôl at Siân.

I'll just flag up to Suzy that the line isn't great; when you turn away from the screen, perhaps we lose a few words, but we are following what you're saying, so a little bit more projection on the voice would be useful, please. Sorry. Back to Siân.

10:00

Yn meddwl ymlaen ychydig bach, yn amlwg mae yna lot fawr o wersi wedi eu dysgu yn ystod cyfnod y Senedd yma, nid yn unig cyfnod COVID ond yn ystod y Senedd drwyddi draw. Sut ydych chi'n bwriadu symud y gwersi yna yn eu blaenau—hynny yw, sut ydych chi'n bwriadu delio efo'r gwersi rydych chi wedi eu dysgu er mwyn cyflwyno newidiadau, os oes angen, yn y Senedd nesaf? Ac a wnewch chi sôn hefyd am y Comisiynwyr newydd fydd yn cychwyn arni yn y Senedd nesaf? Sut fydd y rheini yn cael eu cefnogi yn y cyfnod nesaf yma?

Just thinking forward a little bit, clearly there are many lessons that have been learnt during this Senedd, not just in the COVID era but throughout the Senedd term. How do you intend to move those lessons forward—that is, how do you intend to deal with the lessons that you've learnt in order to introduce changes, if they're needed, in the next Senedd? And will you also speak a little bit about the new Commissioners who will be starting in post in the next Senedd? How will they be supported in this next phase?

Diolch am hynny.

Thank you for that.

Just briefly, I would say that legacy reports are in the process of being drawn up. Committee legacy reports will be a little bit different, obviously—very COVID-related, as we know from our own committee, Siân—but as far as the Commission is concerned, all the huge amount of things that I have learnt over the last five years will be embodied in the legacy report. One of the things I would say is that the new Commissioners, and particularly if they haven't been Commissioners before, have got a lot to learn very, very quickly, and I think that changes to the induction processes for Commissioners is something that I would certainly like to see. We've had some reassurance that that will be happening, to help us learn how to scrutinise the Commission, because even though as Members we all have skills in scrutinising all kinds of witnesses, the relationship with the Commission is an important one. It needs to rely on us. The Commissioners need to be a critical friend, but ultimately, with quite high-spend decisions, the responsibility lies with them, and I think that induction course is going to be critical and it's just a shame I won't be able to get to see it myself, really. 

Unwaith eto, i ategu Siân, rŷn ni'n rhoi lot o egni i mewn i baratoi rhaglenni cyflwyno i bob Aelod, ond yn enwedig i Gomisiynwyr newydd a'r bobl fydd yn cymryd gwahanol roles yn y Senedd nesaf. Mi fyddwn ni'n sicr yn gwneud yn siŵr bod cyfle iddyn nhw gael ffrwyth yr holl wersi sydd wedi cael eu dysgu yn ystod y pumed, ac mae hwn yn faes trafod cyfredol iawn gyda'r Comisiwn ar hyn o bryd. Mi fydd yna ddogfen yn cael ei chyflwyno i'r Comisiwn wythnos nesaf sydd yn ddogfen legacy sydd yn tynnu'r gwersi yma at ei gilydd. Rŷn ni wedi cofnodi barn y Comisiynwyr presennol ynglŷn â sut mae'r system wedi gweithio yn ystod y blynyddoedd diwethaf, fel ein bod ni'n gallu rhoi'r budd hynny i'r Comisiwn newydd.

Once again, just to echo Siân, we're expending a great deal of energy in preparing the induction programmes for every Member, but particularly for new Commissioners and people who will be taking different roles in the next Senedd. We will certainly be ensuring that there is an opportunity for them to benefit from all of the lessons that have been learnt during the fifth Senedd, and this is an area of discussion at the moment with the Commission. There will be a document presented to the Commission next week that is a legacy document that draws together all of these lessons. We've noted the opinion of the current Commissioners with regard to how the system has worked during the past few years, so that we can present the fruits of that learning to the new Commission. 

Dyna ni. Diolch yn fawr.

There we are. Thank you very much.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Alun Davies.

Thank you very much. Alun Davies.

Diolch i ti, Gadeirydd. Dŷn ni wedi trafod sawl peth y bore yma, ac un o'r pethau dŷn ni ddim wedi trafod yn fanwl yw eich cynllun sydd gyda chi ar gyfer y Senedd nesaf—y sustainability plan dŷn ni wedi bod yn disgwyl trafod ac yn disgwyl gweld. Liciwn i ddeall—. Yn gyntaf, dŷch chi wedi bod yn datblygu hyn dros rai blynyddoedd a rhyw fath o gyfnod hir, dwi'n cymryd, a dwi'n cymryd hefyd eich bod chi wedi ystyried impact y pandemig arno fe, achos dwi'n cymryd bod profiadau gwahanol y flwyddyn ddiwethaf wedi cael impact ar eich cynlluniau ym mhob un maes, a dwi'n cymryd bod hyn yn un ohonyn hwn. Liciwn i ddeall tipyn bach mwy am hynny. Ac wedyn, sut ydych chi'n bwriadu cyflwyno hyn yn y Senedd nesaf? Dwi'n cymryd bod y Comisiynwyr newydd—a dwi'n rhannu'r siom dyw Suzy ddim yn mynd i fod yn un ohonyn nhw—yn mynd i fod mewn sefyllfa i dderbyn neu gymeradwyo'r cynllun, ond sut ydych chi'n bwriadu cyflwyno hynny i Aelodau, a sut wedyn ydych chi'n disgwyl i hynny newid y fath o benderfyniadau dŷch chi'n eu gwneud?

Thank you, Chair. We have discussed several issues this morning, and one of the issues that we haven't discussed in great detail is the plan that you have for the next Senedd—the sustainability plan. We've been looking forward to discussing that, and seeing it, indeed. I'd like to understand—. First of all, you have been developing this over a few years now, in the long term, I take it, and I also take it that you have considered the impact of the pandemic on that plan, because I take it that experiences over the past year have had an impact on all of your plans in every area, and I believe that this would be one of those areas. I'd like to understand that a bit more. And then, how do you intend to introduce this sustainability plan in the next Senedd? We'll have new Commissioners, I'm sure—and I share the disappointment that Suzy won't be one of them—and they'll be in a situation to accept and approve that sustainability plan, but how do you intend to introduce that to Members, and then how do you expect that to change the kinds of decisions that you make?

10:05

Again, because the Commission hasn't signed off this specific plan yet, I'm going to leave it to Manon to give you the detail we think might be safe to put out there at the moment—that's not going to be too controversial, if I can put it that way. Not that there's any controversy in this; it's just a question of detail being disclosed to the committee before it's disclosed to Commissioners. That's all that is. 

It's a 10-year plan and the Commission is used to working to 10-year plans, as it does with its estate management at the moment. So, the process of looking that far ahead is not new to the Commission. In the short term, the first piece of this is from now to 2023, and it involves the kinds of things we've already been talking about—it's looking at how people work and whether people will drive into work as much as they used to. It's all details like that. But beyond that, there are quite structural changes that we need to consider. For example, there's a local Cardiff heating district in the process of being developed, and the question for the next Senedd is does the Commission include the Senedd in that, for example. I feel like I'm waffling a little bit here, because I'm a bit nervous about disclosing—. Manon, would you like to take this bit on? Because you would know more about the long term on this than perhaps I would.

Dwi'n hapus i siarad amdano. Mae hon yn ddogfen ddrafft ar hyn o bryd, sydd yn mynd i'r Comisiwn yn ystod yr wythnosau nesaf. Dyma'r cynllun y gwnaethom ni siarad amdano fe y llynedd yn ein hadroddiad blynyddol amgylcheddol ni, sydd yn gosod llwybr allan i gyrraedd niwtraliaeth garbon erbyn diwedd y ddegawd, erbyn 2030. Mae hwnnw'n nod uchelgeisiol dros ben. Mae'n nod sydd yn mynd i ofyn inni wneud rhywfaint o fuddsoddiad ariannol, er, wrth gwrs, y bydd hwnnw'n cael ei ad-dalu dros gyfnod o flynyddoedd. Mae'n nod sydd yn mynd i ofyn inni edrych ar arbedion o safbwynt effeithlonrwydd, ond hefyd newidiadau yn y ffyrdd rŷn ni'n ymddwyn. Felly, mae hwnna'n mynd i fod yn rhywbeth lle rŷn ni'n mynd i orfod mynd ar daith gyda'n gilydd. Mae'n meddwl ein bod ni'n mynd i edrych ar egni adnewyddol, mae'n meddwl edrych ar welliannau yn yr is-strwythur, ac yn y diwedd, er mwyn cyrraedd y nod yna, rŷn ni'n mynd i orfod edrych ar rywfaint o 'offset-io' hefyd. Ond, dyna'r manylion y byddwn ni'n eu rhoi o flaen y Comisiwn mewn rhyw bythefnos, ac wedyn os byddan nhw'n cytuno, byddwn ni'n gallu cyhoeddi hwnna ac wedyn adrodd nôl ar ein perfformiad ni yn erbyn y nod yna yn flynyddol yn ystod y Senedd nesaf.

I'm happy to speak about it. This is a draft document at the moment that will be going before the Commission over the coming weeks. This is the plan we spoke about last year in our annual environmental report, which sets out a path towards carbon neutrality by the end of the decade, by 2030. That is an ambitious target. It is a target that will require us to make some financial investment, but, of course, that will be repaid over a number of years. It is a target that is going to require us to look at savings in terms of efficiency, but also changes in the way that we behave. So, that is going to be something where we're going to have to go on a journey together. It means that we're going have to look at renewable energy, we're going to have to look at improvements in infrastructure, and in the end, in order to reach that target, we're going to have to look at some sort of offsetting as well as part of that. But those are the details that we will be presenting to the Commission in around a fortnight's time, and then if they agree, we will be able to publish that and report back on our performance against the target on an annual basis during the next Senedd.

Can I just add something to that? One of the things that I think is important to get across to the Finance Committee is that a lot of this plan is going to be driven by the building users themselves, so there's going to be a lot of conversation, not just with Members, but members of Commission staff as well. The aims of any plan of this nature are critical, of course, because they are part of reducing carbon and getting a carbon-neutral position, but it's got to work for the people who use the building as well. I hope that the sixth Senedd will take that on board as well.

Mae hwnna'n bwynt gwbl allweddol ac yn bwynt digon teg. Diolch yn fawr iawn am hynna. Fe wnawn ni symud, felly, at Mark Isherwood.

That is a vital point, of course. Thank you very much for that. We'll move on now to Mark Isherwood.

Bore da. Good morning. As you've mentioned many times, we're about to have an election and a new sixth Assembly, or Senedd, with an influx of new Members—and a return of some existing Members—with experience of new ways of working. How do you think the Commission can capture different, more efficient ways of working, more environmentally friendly ways of working, utilising the opportunity presented by that new cohort of Members?

That work is already in progress really, Mark, because, of course, the Commission has had to respond to the pandemic. I think they call them pulse surveys—there are frequent, and I mean frequent, surveys of Commission staff about how they feel about the way that they're working at the moment, the pressures on them and how they're coping with the pandemic and so forth. Manon, I think it was, mentioned earlier on that we've had an overall staff survey very recently that's given some very, very promising results about satisfaction at the moment and how staff members themselves are helping design our way forward. It's the point that I was just making earlier that if we have a way of working that doesn't actually suit our staff, then it's going to fail, isn't it? Poor mental health will go up, productivity will fall and we'll have absences that will be greater than we would like. One of the things we have noticed during this pandemic is that staff absence rates have dropped, so there's a lesson for us in that. Manon, I don't know whether you want to talk any further about the way that working practices could change. I'm not sure whether I'm answering what you're asking there, Mark. Are you talking more from the staff side or from the Members' point of view?

10:10

I think it's the extent to which—well, firstly, where the responsibility lies for this, and the extent to which the Commission or whoever you might suggest should or could engage with the new influx of Members to establish how they would like to be working, because they might have fresh, new ideas, but also to engage early to design with them new ways of working that meet shared goals.

It's co-production, isn't it, Mark, in a nutshell. I suppose one of the things to say is that new Members always get an induction programme, as you'll remember yourself, and that's an ideal point at which an early steer could be taken from Members about how they might want to work. I think what I might say, though, before I bring Manon in, is that new Members may not have any idea what the current position is like. You need to know an organisation before you can respond to it, really. You may have ideas that are great or you may have ideas that are impossible. I don't know, Manon—is it at induction point that we're likely to be able to start those conversations?

We'll certainly be starting it immediately, but we will also be surveying Members and their staff, as we will then continue to do periodically during the life of the Senedd. I hope that Members will engage with that survey so that we can have some meaningful data to shape our thinking. We are entirely directed by the Commission. In terms of my responsibilities, I derive my authority from being delegated it by the Commission. The Commission is there to set the long-term strategy on behalf of all of the Members, so it all comes back to the Members in the end.

It might be worth bringing in as well—. I don't know how familiar the Finance Committee is with this, but we also have an advisory body to the Commission, called the Remuneration Engagement and Workforce Advisory Committee, which, once upon a time, used to be dealing with senior staff pay and so forth, but now deals with staffing issues—human resources, basically. So, we have external advisers who are independent of the Commission who also help us with this engagement with staff. Engagement with Members is a slightly different route, but that route of information gathering has also improved, because we've had external help on good ideas, basically.

I should add that we also, of course, take account of the feedback provided by the Business Committee and by the Chairs' committee so that we're ultimately doing our job of serving the Senedd business side.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Un cwestiwn olaf gen i, te, wedyn os oes yna gwestiynau pellach, caiff Aelodau eu pigo i fyny. Yn eich ymateb chi i adroddiad y pwyllgor ar gyllideb ddrafft 2021-22, fe ddywedoch chi y byddai cyfres o ddigwyddiadau rhithwir yn cael eu cynnal ym mis Tachwedd er mwyn ystyried barn y cyhoedd ar y ffordd ymlaen yn dilyn y pandemig, er bod y pandemig yn dal i fynd ymlaen, wrth gwrs. A gafodd y digwyddiadau yna eu cynnal? Os do fe, beth oedd canlyniad y gwaith ymgysylltu hwnnw? Sut fydd y canlyniadau, os oedden nhw wedi digwydd, yn bwydo i mewn i benderfyniadau'r Comisiwn newydd neu'r Comisiynwyr newydd?

Thank you very much. One final question from me, then if there are further questions from Members, they can pick them up. In your response to the committee's report on the draft budget for 2021-22, you mentioned that there would be a series of virtual events held in November to consider the public's views on the way forward emerging from the pandemic, even though the pandemic is ongoing. Did those events take place? If so, what was the outcome of that engagement work? How will the outcomes, if they did take place, feed into the decision making of the new Commission and Commissioners?

Dwi'n hapus i gadarnhau bod cyfres o ddigwyddiadau rhithwir wedi digwydd. Mi wnaethom ni gynnig llwyfan ar gyfer amrywiaeth o bobl—pobl ifanc, pobl fusnes, gwleidyddion, diddanwyr, ymgyrchwyr, gweithwyr allweddol—iddyn nhw gael rhannu profiadau a thrafod syniadau. Mi wnaethpwyd gwaith hybu effeithiol iawn ar-lein, yn cyrraedd rhwng 3,000 a 15,000 o bobl ar gyfer rhai digwyddiadau, ac wedyn hynny'n trosi i mewn i ryw 500 o bobl yn cofrestru ac yn cymryd rhan yn y digwyddiadau. Un o'r pethau dwi'n falch ohono fe yw os ydyn ni'n cymharu'r adborth gawson ni â'r adborth y flwyddyn gynt—y digwyddiadau y gwnaethom ni eu cynnal ar yr ystâd yn 2019—yna roedd cyfran y bobl nad oeddent wedi ymgysylltu â'r Senedd o'r blaen wedi cynyddu o 30 y cant i 49 y cant, a chyfran y bobl a oedd yn eu disgrifio'u hunain fel pobl nad oedd yn ymddiddori mewn gwleidyddiaeth wedi tyfu o 22 y cant i 58 y cant. Felly, dwi'n meddwl bod yna wersi diddorol i ni yn y fan yna i gynnal elfen o weithredu rhithwir ac ymgysylltu rhithwir ar gyfer y dyfodol, fel ein bod ni'n gallu cyrraedd cynulleidfaoedd y tu allan i'r cylch o bobl efallai a fyddai'n troi lan i'r ystâd ar gyfer digwyddiadau. Mi rydym ni wedi cofnodi'r adborth a gafwyd yn llwyr, a bydd hwnna'n bwydo i mewn i'n cynllunio ni ar gyfer ymgysylltu yn yr hydref, a byddwn ni hefyd, wrth gwrs, yn cyflwyno'r canlyniadau yna i'r Comisiwn wrth inni symud ymlaen.

I'm happy to confirm that a series of virtual events did take place. We provided a platform for a diverse range of people—young people, businesspeople, entertainers, campaigners, key workers—for them to share their experiences and to share ideas. We had very effective online promotion, reaching between 3,000 and 15,000 people for some events, and that translated into around 500 people registering to take part in the events themselves. One of the things I'm very pleased with is if we compare the feedback that we had with the previous year's events—the events that we held on the estate in 2019—then the proportion of people who hadn't engaged with the Senedd before had increased from 30 per cent to 49 per cent, and the proportion of people who described themselves as people who didn't take an interest in politics had increased from 22 per cent to 58 per cent. So, I think there are interesting lessons to be learnt there, to maintain an element of virtual engagement for the future, so that we can reach audiences beyond the circle of people who perhaps would turn up to the estate for events held there. We have noted the feedback that was given, which will feed into our plans for engagement in the autumn, and we of course will be presenting those findings to the Commission as we move forward.

10:15

Iawn. Ocê. Os nad oes yna unrhyw gwestiynau eraill gan Aelodau, gaf i—?

Right. Thank you very much. If there aren't any questions from Members, can I—?

Oh, Rhianon—very briefly, then, and then Suzy.

Thank you very much, Chair. I know we did explore this issue earlier, and it's really for reassurance. We rightly are scrutinising high-value project planning, and I don't see that as micromanagement or prescriptive—it is that transparency of scrutiny. So, I suppose my real question is: from the Commission, are we getting the documentation in a timely manner in order to be able to carry out our function?

Well, you're better placed to answer that question than us. Is there something we can do more quickly? I answered questions at the beginning about the annual timetable that the Commission follows, and pointed out that, actually, we produce our information more quickly than perhaps other parts of the public sector—in draft, it gets voted on, and we get a final budget. If you think that could be improved, then obviously we always pay very, very close attention to the Finance Committee.

I would add that we've taken comfort from comments that the committee has made before now about the timeliness and thoroughness of operation. I'm very satisfied with the level of transparency and accountability that we've provided during the last year, and I hope the committee agrees.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Mi fuaswn i yn ategu ein bod ni yn hapus, dwi'n siŵr, â'r lefel presennol o ymwneud rhwng y Comisiwn a'r pwyllgor yma. Suzy, ydych chi am ddweud rhywbeth arall?

Thank you very much. I would echo that we are content with the current level of engagement between the Commission and this committee. Suzy, do you want to say something?

Yes. Just before we finish, Cadeirydd, I just wanted to correct the record. When I referred to the figure of £1 million earlier on, it's actually £5 million. I just wanted to get that in now, rather than retrospectively.

Ocê. Iawn. Gyda hynny, felly, gaf i ddiolch i Suzy, i Manon, ac i Nia am fod gyda ni y bore yma? A gaf i ddiolch yn arbennig i Suzy, wrth gwrs, gan ei bod hi'n debygol mai dyma'r tro olaf y bydd hi'n ymddangos gerbron y Pwyllgor Cyllid yma? Rŷn ni yn ddiolchgar ichi am y modd parod a hawddgar iawn rŷch chi wedi ymwneud â'r pwyllgor dros eich cyfnod fel comisiynydd, a dŷn ni'n dymuno'n dda iawn ichi yn y cyfnod nesaf ar ôl yr etholiad. A diolch ichi i gyd am wastad fod mor barod i ymwneud â ni fel pwyllgor. Diolch yn fawr iawn.

Okay. Thank you very much. With those few words, may I thank Suzy, Manon and Nia for joining us this morning? May I thank Suzy in particular, because of course this is likely to be her final appearance before this Finance Committee? We're very grateful for your willingness to engage with the committee during your period as commissioner, and we wish you very well in the next phase after the election. And thank you all for always being so willing to engage with the committee. Thank you very much.

4. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(ix) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod.
4. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Mi aiff y pwyllgor nawr mewn i sesiwn breifat. Felly yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix), dwi'n cynnig bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yma. Ydy Aelodau'n hapus i wneud hynny? Iawn. Mi arhoswn ni eiliad neu ddwy nes i'r darlledu ddod i ben, er mwyn inni gael symud mewn i sesiwn breifat.

The committee will now go into private session. So, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix), I propose that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of this meeting. Are you content to do so? I see that you are. We'll wait a second or two before the broadcast comes to an end, so that we can move into private session.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:18.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:18.