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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Marek quits

The Assembly's House Committee met this morning to consider the Assembly Parliamentary Service's budget for next year. In many ways this was the most difficult budget we have ever had to set. Not only do we need to include significant new pressures such as the costs of separating the Assembly from the Government, IT set-up costs and new financial systems for example, but we also need to ensure that whatever Committee structure is agreed on once the Government of Wales Bill becomes law is serviced properly, and that we beef up the legal and research support for members so that we are properly equipped to deal with the new era of primary legislation.

The House Committee is responsible under standing orders for laying this budget by the end of September, however because they will cease to exist shortly after the Assembly elections they will only have a role in implementing it for five of the 52 weeks of the 2007-08 financial year. Instead the new Assembly Commission will take over responsibility for the budget and for the administration of the whole Assembly side. As a result the shadow commission has done a lot of work in drawing up its own budget.

One of the key considerations in preparing the Commission's draft budget was to contain costs and to ensure that the increase was kept at or below the rate of inflation. This is not going to be easy and it will entail making some savings. The Shadow Commission will be working on these over the summer. The consequence of this process however, was that there was some conflict at this morning's meeting between the Commission and the Deputy Presiding Officer. He had an alternative budget, which he believed would avoid making these savings, however he was outvoted.

I have now learnt that as a consequence of that decision the DPO has resigned as Chair of the House Committee. I am sure there must be more to it than this but we will have to wait and see how this situation develops and what else comes out.

Update: Despite having confirmed John Marek's resignation with two different sources it seems that he has not yet left the chair of House Committee. I am told that he is still considering his position.
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