Agenda item

Critical examination of one identified or emerging risk or issue - Senedd Reform


7.1 The Chair invited Siwan Davies to introduce this item and welcomed Richard Thomas, Constitutional Change Implementation Manager to the meeting. Siwan explained Richard’s experience with implementing previous reform activity, how he had supported the Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform and his role in managing delivery of this next phase of the reform agenda and the associated risks.

7.2 Siwan welcomed this opportunity to provide the latest information to the Committee and to discuss the governance and challenges around what would be a momentous and all-encompassing transformational change. She outlined the various elements of the reform proposals which included an increase in the number of Members from 60 to 96 and a different electoral process.

7.3 The report by the Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform, which had been published on 30 May, was debated by the Senedd in the Plenary meeting on 8 June. The motion to endorse the recommendations in the report was moved, with 40 Members voting in favour. It was considered unlikely that any wider political consensus in favour of reform would be achieved. This gave the Welsh Government a strengthened mandate to bring forward legislation to enact the reform proposals by 2026. It was expected that the Bill would be introduced by Autumn 2023, and receive Royal Assent by Summer 2024.

7.4 Siwan advised that Commission officials had been working with the Welsh Government to establish joint governance arrangements on those elements of the Senedd Reform Programme where a joint interest and decision-making dependencies exist and support collaborative working between the Welsh Government and the Senedd Commission. The Llywydd had discussed the joint governance arrangements with the First Minister.

7.5 The Commission’s Executive Board had been considering the proposed governance arrangements for the Senedd Commission projects, with details due to be presented to the Commission in July. Governance arrangements would encompass planning to support the passage of legislation (business as usual), reform of Commission services (ways of working) and reform of Senedd business. Senedd Commission officials would also support the Remuneration Board’s reform project.

7.6 Siwan outlined some of the key challenges, including the following:

- the need to implement a major transformation programme for the Seventh Senedd alongside delivering business as usual during the Sixth Senedd;

- financial constraints;

- harnessing appropriate expertise; and

- engaging with stakeholders, particularly given the multiple-ownership and interdependencies of various projects.

7.7 Siwan provided assurance to the Committee around the detailed planning underway to deliver the reform programme and manage the challenges she had outlined. The planning would incorporate governance arrangements for the Commission, and joint working with the Independent Remuneration Board and the Welsh Government but with clear delineation.

7.8 The Committee acknowledged the magnitude of the Senedd Reform programme and its all-encompassing effect on delivery of the Commission’s services. The Chair and members were keen to help in areas where they could add value and noted that Senedd Reform would be a key area of focus in its forward work programme. The Chair suggested that specific areas of focus would be around clarifying and communicating ownership, governance arrangements, including roles and responsibilities, and resourcing issues, including effective budget management and use of business processes.

7.9 In response to questions from the Committee about the inter-related nature of the Senedd Reform and Ways of Working programmes, Ed Williams outlined how both programmes would report to the Executive Board which would provide advice and recommendations to the Commission. 

7.10 Committee members referred to the potentially destabilising nature of such major transformational changes on staff and the need for effective and timely communication. They also stressed the importance of having a resource dedicated to programme and change management and clear lines of accountability with an identified Senior Responsible Officer (SRO). Ed provided assurance on the change management process under consideration by the Executive Board, which would include internal communication strands.

7.11 In terms of internal communications, Siwan realised the importance of keeping staff informed about Senedd Reform and the challenges this brought, alongside delivering business as usual. The Chair considered this had been pitched well at the recent all-staff meeting with the challenges expressed in a way which did not raise concerns. Siwan added that consideration was also being given to external communications, including with intra-parliamentary fora as the reform agenda would raise the profile of, and generate interest in the Senedd. The Chair noted that there were no precedents for such ambitious changes and agreed that other legislatures would be taking an interest.

7.12 Richard Thomas highlighted the possible pressure to deliver change within existing budgets which would inevitably mean prioritisation of services going forward. Siwan added that resourcing options for supporting Senedd Reform would be included in the 2023-24 budget which was due to be considered by the Commission in July. She also informed the Committee of a capacity review being undertaken by Executive Board and Leadership Team, with Heads of Service tasked with identifying efficiencies and flexible use of existing resources.

7.13 The Chair acknowledged the challenges associated with delivering Senedd Reform. He was confident in the Commission’s ability to handle change, given the competence demonstrated in planning and delivering complex activities under challenging circumstances, citing the flexible and effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic and successful transition to the Sixth Senedd as examples.

7.14 From a governance, assurance and audit perspective, and given the pervasive nature of the Senedd Reform programme, Gareth Watts would build this into his internal audit plan. He would be proactive in working with the team to develop ways of providing real time assurance, in line with the Commission’s Assurance Framework. He would also work with the Commission’s Risk Manager, who was a member of his team, to re-evaluate priorities to ensure there was capacity to support the programme’s management of risk.

7.15 It was agreed that Senedd Reform would be added to the Committee’s forward work programme as a standing item. Officials agreed to provide updates to the Committee as plans developed and to present details of the governance structure, including links with the Welsh Government at the Autumn meeting. 



·       Clerking team to ensure a standing item was added to the Forward Work Programme for a corporate update on Senedd Reform.

·       Siwan Davies to present governance structure diagram (to include the internal team structure and links with Welsh Government) at the autumn meeting.