Review of Arm's-length Bodies

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 24th January 2017.

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Photo of Gary Middleton Gary Middleton DUP 2:15 pm, 24th January 2017

8. Mr Middleton asked the Minister for Communities for an update on his Department's review of arm's-length bodies (ALBs). (AQO 967/16-21)

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

I am keen to see the review of my Department's arm's-length bodies progressed quickly so that the delivery of services to the citizens of Northern Ireland can be as efficient and effective as possible. Consequently, I have put in place a small central team to take forward the first stage, focusing on two key themes: exploring the scope to rationalise and consolidate the numbers and functions of our various ALBs; and examining the opportunity to extend the use of shared-services arrangements across the various bodies. I have written to my Executive colleagues, the chairpersons and chief executives of each arm's-length body, as well as the relevant trade unions, to advise them of the review and of my intentions going forward.

My officials have arranged meetings with the chairpersons and chief executives of the bodies to initiate early engagement and consultation, and they will also be meeting with trade union representatives. A public consultation on the identified options for delivery is planned for the summer.

Photo of Gary Middleton Gary Middleton DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer. Will he outline whether the current political situation will have much of an impact on this proposal that he wants to carry out? Will he give some indication of a time frame for when such a consultation can be completed?

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

Obviously, the work I have commissioned has started and will continue. Ultimately, it will be up to the next Executive and Assembly to deal with the outworkings of that review when the findings come through. Consider that this Department alone has 21 arm's-length bodies, and that does not include the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, which has not been part of the review. Collectively, there is a combined annual budget of the order of £78 million. I think it is only prudent that this review is carried out to ensure the services we are, ultimately, delivering to the public are being delivered in the most efficient and effective way possible. That is the spirit in which this review has commenced. Obviously, I hope it is something that can be developed in the future.

Photo of Robbie Butler Robbie Butler UUP

I thank the Minister for his answers and welcome the chance to ask him a question in the final meeting of this mandate. Will the Minister give an update on the future plans for Sport NI, given the recent disruption and controversies that have affected the organisation?

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

There were a significant number of recommendations for Sport NI, and this Department had a team that was helping to provide support for the administration and the way in which the organisation is run. I am very pleased that my permanent secretary and deputy permanent secretary have been able to give me assurance that that work has enabled Sport NI to develop in a way that means it can start pooling the additional support the Department has been putting into Sport NI. I think that is a demonstration that this is an organisation that has turned a corner and, ultimately, will deliver what we all want, and that is to the benefit of people who engage in sport and in those sporting organisations.