MINUTES OF PERMANENT SECRETARY GROUP
HELD ON FRIDAY 30 SEPTEMBER 2011 IN THE GLASSHOUSE,
STORMONT CASTLE, AT 8.45AM
Present: Stephen Peover – Chair
In attendance: Tommy O’Reilly Agenda Item 5
Pauline Boyle - Secretariat
1. Apologies: Malcolm McKibbin
2. Minutes of the PSG meeting held on 23 September 2011
The minutes of the meeting were agreed.
3. Matters Arising
Stephen Peover reminded colleagues to reflect to their departments the
need for all drafts and input to speeches for Ministers to be high quality,
fresh and current.
4. Executive and Assembly Update
Neill Jackson updated on the special meeting of the Executive held on
29 September to consider historical institutional abuse. Stephen Peover
said it would be beneficial to have a briefing at PSG next week.
[Action: PSG Secretariat]
Institute for Government
Neill updated on his attendance at the Institute for Government
Conference on Devolution on Friday 23 September 2011 in London.
5. Universal Credit
Will Haire was keen to bring a paper to PSG. Welfare reform is a major
part of the Coalition Government’s drive to control public finances.
Universal Credit will have implications on how the NICS will do business
and he felt it important to seek PSG views on the key issues and to seek
their commitment to future cross-departmental co-operation on this major
initiative prior to bringing to the Executive.
Tommy O’Reilly introduced Heather Cousins who is leading the Bill team.
Tommy highlighted the key challenges for PSG as follows:
Universal Credit will require a major shift in how we view the world of work.
With Labour Market changes many more people will become available for
employment and this will increase flexibility for employers. This will be a
significant challenge and DSD are working closely with DEL.
Child Care is a major policy issue. Funding will transfer from HMRC to the
DSD fund. PSG is asked for views on a proposal that the DSD Minister
would convene a meeting with relevant Executive colleagues to examine
Tommy thanked all Departments for responding on the Passport Benefits
paper. The Social Security Advisory Committee is due to report by
Council Tax rebates will be localised and this will have major implications
for how we in Northern Ireland handle rate rebates. Discussions are under
way between DSD and DFP on this.
When Universal Credit is up and running there will be budgetary
considerations. A Senior Sponsoring Group, chaired by Will Haire, has
been established to provide oversight and support at a strategic level.
There is a lot of work to be done around this programme and PSG will be
Stephen Peover noted and recognised the contribution that Universal
Credit can make potentially to the wider economic and social agenda;
content that DSD convene a meeting with the relevant departments
on the issue of child care;
noted the potential budgetary implications and recommended DFP
keep in touch with Treasury;
agreed the Sponsorship Group work with DEL, DFP, HMRC and
DWP and any other departments who want to become members;
agreed that an Executive Sub-Committee should be set up.
Will Haire will discuss with his Minister and Permanent Secretaries will
brief their Ministers. He will bring an updated paper to a future PSG
[Action: Will Haire & Perm Secs]
6. Tour de Table
Stephen Peover reported on his attendance at the CBI Northern Ireland
luncheon at the La Mon House Hotel on Wednesday 28 September.
David Sterling thanked everyone for their input to his paper re Economic
Strategy. He reported that the Working Group were meeting today.
Air Passenger Duty
David reported on the Chancellor’s announcement re Air Passenger Duty.
Preparations for Winter
Leo O’Reilly reported on a Local Government Emergency Management
Group event which discussed preparations for Winter. Geoff Allister said
he spent some time with NILGA and SOLACE at a high level meeting to
discuss plans for winter. Councils will work with DRD and the Minister will
make a statement and DRD will be doing a leaflet drop.
Andrew McCormick said the Maternity Strategy was launched on
Wednesday 28 September.
He reported on the planned UNISON strike about alleged cuts to services.
He reported the Minister attended a workshop on suicide on Wednesday
Gerry Lavery updated on an exercise on an animal feed incident. He was
pleased with inputs made and emphasised the value and importance of
Stephen Peover had been in liaison with Colm Shannon and thought
needed to be given on how to manage the commitment for NICS to host a
further NICS Live event. Support for EIS would be needed and Stephen
asked PSG to give thought to that and this would be on the agenda for
next week’s meeting.
[Action: PSG & Secretariat]
Stephen reported on a meeting he had with the Audit Office earlier in the
PSG Forward Planner
HOCS Office will draw up a draft Forward Planner for the next 6 months as
the current one runs out today. Some items have been identified and will
be included. This will be sent to Perm Secs week commencing 3 October
in draft with a request to include any additional items.
Stephen recorded on behalf of PSG congratulations to Malcolm McKibbin
who will take over as Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.
Retirement of Sir Bruce Robinson
Stephen reported Bruce wrote to him to thank him and everyone else for
their kindness and generosity for the dinner hosted by PSG for his
retirement last Monday evening. He and Janet wish everyone well in the
next stage of the journey for the NICS.
5 October 2011