(Title Image: Electoral Reform Society)
Yesterday, AMs unanimously approved the Assembly Commission’s budget for 2020-21, which covers the running cost of the Senedd itself. The total budget is worth £61.4million.
Assembly Commission for Finance, Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West), said an increase on last year’s budget is largely down to changes in accounting rules relating to leased assets; without the rule change, the budget would’ve been £59.6million.
The only major change from the draft budget was an increase in £360,000 to cover an estimate relating to annual hours and earnings of AMs and AM support staff from April 2020, based on revised Office for National Statistics data.
“As we know, the pressure on Members remains significant, given our relatively small number and the complex issues that we’re addressing now, most noticeably the impact of the UK leaving the EU. We need a budget that provides the right level of resource to support Members through this period. The longstanding uncertainty around the timing of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and the terms of any departure, has created challenges in planning how we resource that work as an Assembly, and how we as a legislature can deliver those changes.”
– Assembly Commissioner for Finance, Suzy Davies AM
Chair of the Finance Committee, Llyr Gruffydd AM (Plaid, North Wales), was pleased that a recommendation from last year that underspends be returned to the Welsh consolidated fund has been implemented. He was also pleased that spending relating to the Youth Parliament and other forms of public engagement has been properly accounted for – amounting to £250,000.
The biggest cause of concern is a provisional £4million estimate to replace the windows at Ty Hywel. It was too soon to say any more on that as no feasibility studies have been carried out. Though he welcomed the Commission’s agreement to provide details on its plans in 2020, he was disappointed this won’t happen until next October.
The Commissioner said the window replacement scheme “wouldn’t come cheap”, but any attempt to replace them now would be “unpalatable” due to the cost involved. The goal is to do it as cost-effectively as possible.