As part of the restoration of the NI Assembly in January of this year and the accompanying document New Decade New Approach Document indicated that the Executive would be carrying out a review of Arm’s Length Bodies. NIPSA has been advised that this review has commenced and is in two phases. The first phase is being conducted by parent Departments and the second phase will be conducted by the Department of Finance. NIPSA has been advised that the review has been agreed by the NI Executive. NIPSA has also been advised that consultation will take place in due course with the Department of Finance who are leading on the review on behalf of the NI Executive.

The terms of reference for the review, which NIPSA was not consulted upon, are as follows:

The review will be carried out in two stages with the first gathering factual background information about each Non Departmental Public Body and the second involving an assessment as to whether the ALB meets one of the six tests as follows:

  1. Do its functions need to be delivered independently and at arm’s length from Ministers?
  2. Do its activities require political impartiality?
  3. Does it perform a technical function which would be inappropriate to be carried out by a Government Department?
  4. Is there overlap with any other ALB and could its functions be amalgamated with another ALB? Are there efficiencies which could be made?
  5. Has it outlived its purpose and should it be abolished?
  6. Does it have sufficient transparency to the public about its activities and could this be improved?

Members should be aware that this is a very wide ranging review and includes large organisations such as Health and Social Care Trusts and Housing Executive and much smaller organisations including the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, Armagh Observatory and Planetarium and others. I understand that Departments have already provided the information sought by parent Departments and Branches should seek to get a copy of the information from their employer provided to the parent Department as it may be a critical document in the review process. A copy of these documents should be forwarded to both myself and the official with responsibility for the area.

Members in all Arm’s Length Bodies will be consulted on any recommendations arising out of any reports and NIPSA will be engaging with Departments and political parties to seek to influence the decision making process. NIPSA will also be meeting with the Assembly Finance Committee who are currently liaising with NIPSA on providing evidence to the Committee on the issue of Public Sector Reform – this evidence session is likely to be held in September (date to be agreed).

I appreciate this will be a worrying time for members in the organisations covered by the review. I wish to assure you that NIPSA will be engaged at all levels arising out of this review to ensure our members are protected.

Further articles will be posted in due course.

Alison Millar
General Secretary