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                STORMONT CASTLE, AT 8.45AM

Present:             Stephen Peover – Chair
                     Geoff Allister
                     Will Haire
                     Gerry Lavery
                     Andrew McCormick
                     Malcolm McKibbin
                     Leo O’Reilly
                     Stephen Peover
                     Nick Perry
                     Alan Shannon
                     Cynthia Smith
                     David Sterling
                     Paul Sweeney

In attendance:       Tommy O’Reilly              Agenda Item 5
                     Heather Cousins
                     Oswyn Paulin
                     Neill Jackson
                     Pauline Boyle - Secretariat

1. Apologies:        Malcolm McKibbin
                     Rosalie Flanagan
                     Noel Lavery
                     Stephen Grimason

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
   the implications.

   Tommy thanked all Departments for responding on the Passport Benefits
   paper. The Social Security Advisory Committee is due to report by
   January 2012.

   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
   kept updated.

   Stephen Peover noted and recognised the contribution that Universal
   Credit can make potentially to the wider economic and social agenda;

   PSG –

       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.

  Economic Strategy

  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.

  Maternity Strategy

  Andrew McCormick said the Maternity Strategy was launched on
  Wednesday 28 September.

  UNISON Strike

  He reported on the planned UNISON strike about alleged cuts to services.

Suicide Workshop

He reported the Minister attended a workshop on suicide on Wednesday
28 September.

Exercise Larkspur

Gerry Lavery updated on an exercise on an animal feed incident. He was
pleased with inputs made and emphasised the value and importance of
the exercise.


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]

Audit Office

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


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