A number of interactive conferences have been organised
for staff who will be affected by the IS/IT change programme.
190. All four core tasks involve the management of
staff and of financial resources. All those working on the parliamentary
estate, in whatever capacity, require refreshment and other facilities.
While some services, such as the Travel Office and cash machines,
are provided by outside agencies, a wide range of 'back office'
services and facilities are provided by the departments of the
House. This section also covers essential estate management functions,
such as fire safety and energy conservation.
Payroll, pensions and financial management
191. The Department of Finance and Administration's
(DFA) core services include financial, payroll, pension, human
resources, corporate training, occupational health, safety and
welfare, procurement and internal review services.
House Administrative Information System (HAIS)
192. A second phase of the HAIS programme has begun
(see page 64), with the aim of improving the way human resource,
finance and procurement services are conducted across the House
of Commons. It involves defining who is responsible for which
aspects of those services, making processes more consistent and
efficient, and putting in place a corporate information system
to support the processes. The programme aims to reduce duplication,
clarify levels of authority and responsibility and to improve
the quality of administrative data.
193. During 2004/05 the scope and objectives of the
programme were confirmed, following extensive consultation with
a wide range of managers. The Board of Management gave the programme
approval to proceed in October 2004. An external review to assess
the merits and likely success of the programme resulted in a 'green'
rating, judging it "on target to succeed".
194. A HAIS Service Centre was established in December
2003 to provide an effective support service to users of the information
system and to ensure that the system is fully exploited to improve
the business services it supports. During the last year a number
of key milestones were achieved. These included:
- putting in place a service level agreement with
departmental HAIS users;
- implementing a security action plan in response
to a review undertaken in April 2004; and
- commencing work towards implementing the Information
Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) best practice model for
As part of the ITIL initiative seven members of the
Service Centre successfully completed the Information System Examination
Board's Foundation Certificate in Service Management.
195. During 2004/05, the House employed, on average,
1,554 full-time equivalent (fte) staff. Their distribution by
department is shown in the chart below.
196. The multi-year pay deals agreed for most House
staff for the first time in 2003/04 continued to apply in 2004/05.
Separate pay arrangements are in place for senior Commons staff.
197. The pension scheme for House staff operates
'by analogy' to the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS),
so that changes to the PCSPS must be mirrored in the House scheme.
In December, the Cabinet Office launched a consultation exercise
concerning possible changes to the PCSPS, including raising the
pension age to 65 and the transition to pension benefits based
on 'whole career' earnings rather than final salary. The House
similarly ran a consultation exercise, the results of which were
submitted to the Cabinet Office. Final decisions are expected
from Government later in 2005.
198. Much of the day-to day administration of the
House staff pension scheme was successfully transferred to a private
sector company, Capita Hartshead, with effect from 1 April 2005.
199. Some 84 per cent of invoices presented against
the Administration Estimate were paid within 30 working days of
the invoice date in 2004/05, five per cent more than last year.
200. Childcare vouchers are offered to help House
staff with childcare arrangements while they are at work. 116
staff took advantage of the scheme during the year 2004/05. During
that period the scheme was extended to cover Members' staff for
the first time. The House offered a summer play scheme in conjunction
with a local community centre. This provided up to 25 places per
week for school age children of staff during the summer vacation.
Human resources and training
201. Several new initiatives were introduced
during the year to improve the recruitment process and to increase
the diversity of the House workforce. These include generic recruitment
for some support level jobs; increased use of concurrent internal
and external recruitment; and an internal level transfer scheme
to provide development opportunities for staff. 65 internal and
85 external (mostly concurrent) recruitment exercises were handled
during the year (see chart below). This is significantly fewer
than in previous years, the decrease being mainly due to efficiencies
gained from the concurrent and generic recruitment initiatives
and the expectation of a general election which eased demand for
staff in the first quarter of 2005.
202. The Corporate Learning and Diversity team in
DFA organised 61 corporate learning events in the year. This included
sixteen management seminars, five two-day events, 34 one-day events
and two half-day events. In total 908 delegate places were allocated
with an improved attendance rate of 90 per cent owing to a new
checking system put in place by the team.
203. Change projects and departments throughout the
House are increasingly taking into account the effectiveness of
their communications' activities. A variety of communications'
methods are being used to put across complex messages. For example,
a number of interactive conferences have been organised for staff
who will be affected by the IS/IT change programme. These events
have been supplemented by written communications, either via email
or using the intranet.
204. The Internal Communications Forum, created to
enable staff with internal communication responsibilities within
their departments to share best practice and experiences, now
meets on a more formal basis. Forum members now have the support
of their departments to attend an intensive internal communications
training course later in 2005 and to include communication objectives
in their forward job plans.
During 2004/05 two senior management conference events
were attended by over 70 staff each.
205. In 2004/05 two senior manager management conference
events were held, each attended
by over 70 staff: Managing inclusion: why diversity
matters and Managing organisational change. These were
well received - rated excellent by 79 per cent of those submitting
feedback forms overall. One conference will be held in 2005, linked
to key issues in the Commission's new strategic plan, such as
work on connecting Parliament with the public.
206. Following an audit of communications' materials
aimed at Members and their staff, the Board of Management agreed
that such publications should adopt a consistent corporate identity.
New style guidelines were put in place before leaflets and booklets
were reprinted ahead of the general election.
207. The parliamentary intranet continues to be an
important tool for communicating to Members and staff. During
the year, the new edition of the Members' Handbook was
published as a series of linked intranet pages ahead of publication
in hard copy, and was updated on a number of occasions. Last year
intranet sites received over 5.1 million 'requests', nearly 25
per cent fewer than in the previous year but substantially more
than in 2002/03. Progress continues to be made towards the convergence
of existing intranets into one, easily-navigable, Parliament-wide
site. In anticipation of this, the Department of Finance and Administration
relaunched its intranet site during the year, providing separate
entry pages for Members and House staff.
208. Work has continued on developing agreed information
standards in order to achieve interoperability between information
systems across both Houses of Parliament. An Information Standards
Unit has been established within the Information Architecture
Support Unit to serve both Houses of Parliament. The new unit
will facilitate the development of new standards as the need arises
as well as manage the processes of review, modification and agreement
for both new and existing information standards. The standards
put forward during 2003/04 were taken through a comprehensive
process of review and agreement. The catalogue of agreed standards
(available on the parliamentary intranet) included 104 standards
at the end of March 2005, covering a variety of parliamentary,
administrative and technical information.
209. The data standards will be further refined to
confirm ownership and stewardship of the various data elements
and ensure their accuracy, timeliness and availability. The catalogue
will be expanded to include standards in the financial and human
resource arenas that are needed to support the HAIS 2 programme
(see paragraphs 192-193). Other significant areas of work will
include development of a user-friendly repository for the standards
and the development of comprehensive parliamentary XML schema
to help improve the efficiency of the publication of parliamentary
material, the exchange of such material with government departments,
and electronic publication and dissemination.
Occupational health, safety and welfare
210. A key milestone in 2004/05 was the decision
by the Commission to ban smoking in most parts of the parliamentary
estate, in the light of growing medical evidence about the adverse
effects of passive smoking. All restaurants and some of the bars
are included in the ban. The Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare
Service (OHSWS) will provide health advice to those wishing to
give up smoking.
211. A range of medical services is provided by the
OHSWS, supported by physicians supplied under contract by Guy's
and St. Thomas' Hospital Trust. Together they provide a management
referral and employee referral service for departments of both
Houses relating to ill-health symptoms and long- and short-term
sickness absence (see paragraph 117 for services specifically
for Members). They are further supported by colleagues who specialise
in the fields of health and safety and welfare. Other support
activities are also provided where illness and injury may affect
staff while at work including physiotherapy, personal training,
health surveillance, health screening, workplace inspections,
counselling, health promotions and a walk-in minor treatment and
212. Continuing the trend of previous years there
has been a steady growth in the use of occupational health services.
Increasing numbers of referrals are having a positive effect in
the two Houses: early occupational health intervention helps to
prevent symptoms of ill health worsening and stops many short-term
sickness absences from becoming long-term absences. As a result,
long-term absences have fallen significantly. Additionally, rehabilitation
programmes are helping to get people back to work following illness
or an operation.
213. The Welfare Service provides confidential information,
advice, support and counselling services to staff of both Houses
in relation to financial, health, bereavement, domestic and work
related issues. It also supports managers in resolving difficult
staffing situations. The aim is to help people remain effective
at work by helping them to overcome difficulties they face, whether
work related or not. The Welfare Service handled 607 cases during
the past year, of which 279 were new: this represents a slight
decline in workload compared to 2003/04 although the number of
cases remains significantly higher than in 2002/03.
214. Health and safety practitioners provide advice,
support and guidance to the departments, offices and Health and
Safety Committees of both Houses, on all relevant aspects of the
law and good working practices. The five year health and safety
risk management strategy has paid dividends with injury accident
rates on the parliamentary estate falling from 372 in 2000 to
172 in 2004 (see chart overleaf). The severity of accidents has
also reduced: when accidents do occur they tend to result in minor
injury only. A number of initiatives are planned to target those
hazards causing most accidents to help further reduce accident
rates. Health and safety training continues to be important with
37 health and safety related courses run during the year, attracting
215. There are now 171 trained first aiders working
for the two Houses, with 86 of them also trained to use the ten
defibrillators on the estate. The number of blood donor sessions
continues to rise, with four-day sessions planned to cope with
demand - 383 volunteers reported to the blood service in 2004/05,
of which 378 were able to donate blood including 44 new donors.
216. Membership of the Westminster Gym, a private
facility provided under contract to the two Houses, exceeds 800.
During 2004 the contract was re-let, following a highly competitive
217. The House of Commons Refreshment Department
provides catering and retail services for Members of Parliament,
staff and visitors to the parliamentary estate. Retail and merchandising
activities are reported elsewhere in this report (see paragraphs
159 to 165). The department operates a wide range of catering
services located in the Palace of Westminster, Portcullis House
and two other parliamentary buildings, serving snacks and meals
to over 8,000 people a day at peak times. Facilities include the
Members' Tea Room and four self-service restaurants for staff
and Members, four table-service restaurants, three cafés/coffee
bars (including the Jubilee Café, open to all visitors
to Parliament), five bars and numerous hospitality rooms for private
functions. The Refreshment Department also operates the catering
facilities provided for press and media representatives based
in the House. The House of Lords has its own Refreshment Department,
but Members and staff of the Lords are able to use many of the
catering services provided in the House of Commons. Given this
wide customer base and the impossibility of knowing how many people
are within the parliamentary estate at any given time, one of
the greatest difficulties faced by the Refreshment Department
is predicting the number of customers who will use its services
from one day, or even from one hour, to the next.
218. Following the Commission's decision in June
2003 that the funding provided for the operation of the Refreshment
Department's services should be reduced in stages to 45 per cent
of operating costs by June 2006, much work has been done over
the past two years to reduce the catering subsidy. The first phase
of this work, in 2003/04, involved a review of all services, making
changes to opening hours, operating methods, and service style
in order to make more efficient use of resources whilst still
providing services that meet the changing needs of the House.
The savings generated by this review have only come fully on-stream
in 2004/05. No further service cut-backs have been made this year,
although the refurbishment of Bellamy's cafeteria provided the
opportunity to invest in new systems that have allowed further
staffing reductions to be achieved. Additionally, above-inflation
price increases were implemented in April 2003 and again in April
2004 to increase the proportion of costs recovered from users
of the Department's services. The combination of price increases,
staff reductions and on-going control of key operational expenditure
(particularly food and beverage costs) enabled the department
to achieve the first phase of its target savings in 2003/04 by
reducing the subsidy to 47 per cent. The second phase, to reduce
the subsidy to 45 per cent by June 2006, has already been exceeded,
with the Department achieving a subsidy level of less than 42
per cent in 2004/05. The net subsidy provided in 2004/05 is estimated
at £4.84 million, a cash saving of £870,000 since the
Commission agreed its current policy. The average cost of £3.32
per cover (meal) served is £1.00 less than it was ten years
ago, demonstrating significant efficiency improvements against
a background of rising demand for catering services.
219. For the first time in many years, demand for
the department's staff restaurant and cafeteria services reduced
slightly in 2004/05. This is almost certainly a direct consequence
of the price increases referred to above. Although the dining
rooms suffered a loss of some evening trade following changes
to the sitting hours of the House, lunchtime trade was buoyant,
with the net result that dining room usage (Members' and Strangers'
dining rooms, the Churchill Room and the adjournment in Portcullis
House) increased marginally in 2004/05. However, the key demand
shift that has greatly assisted the department's overall subsidy
position is the significant growth in banqueting sales and profit
contribution in 2004/05. Banqueting covers showed a fifteen per
cent growth in 2004/05 and the introduction of a new menu format,
offering more choice to organisers, helped achieve an increase
in average spend of almost £2.00 per head. In 2004/05, banqueting
sales contributed 39 per cent of the department's total income
and yielded 52 per cent of the department's gross profits.
220. The other key challenge for the Refreshment
Department over the past two years has been to make better use
of its staff skills and resources. The department's commitment
to the continuous development of its staff remains evidenced by
its on-going investment in the training and development of staff
at all levels, both as an accredited Investor in People and as
a registered awarding centre for National Vocational Qualifications.
The department operates a chef apprenticeship scheme and regularly
hosts visits and work experience for schoolchildren, students
and colleagues from the wider hospitality industry. As a result
of the operational changes introduced as part of the subsidy review,
staff headcount has fallen from 314 (full-time equivalent) two
years ago to 293 at the end of March 2005. This has been achieved
almost entirely through natural wastage and re-deployment. Significant
savings have also been made through better control of other staff
costs, such as a reduction in staff absence of over three days
per employee in 2004/05, with the consequence that less expenditure
has been incurred in engaging temporary cover. This, in turn,
has enabled staff to adapt to their new working practices in a
period of relative team stability and, although the unpredictability
of parliamentary demands will always continue to provide a challenge
for staff working in front-line service delivery positions, individual
and collective staff motivation has been a critical success factor
in the department achieving the targets set by the Commission
two years ago.
Internal Review Service
221. The Internal Review Service (IRS) provides internal
audit and staff review services. Its principal role is to provide
the Clerk of the House as Accounting Officer with an assurance
concerning the adequacy of internal controls. Its other role is
to assist in ensuring that the House makes effective, efficient
and economic use of its human resources.
222. In October 2004 IRS engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers
(PwC) to be its internal audit partner. PwC provides access to
a broad range of expertise not available to the in-house team
and will also operate in areas where there may be a perceived
conflict of interest between IRS and the Department of Finance
and Administration of which it is a part. The engagement of an
internal audit partner was one of a number of recommendations
made in an independent review of IRS accepted by the Administration
Estimate Audit Committee and approved by the Clerk of the House.
223. During 2004/05 IRS delivered fifteen audit reports
relating to the Administration Estimate from its risk based internal
audit programme, underpinning the statement of assurance on internal
controls. It also produced an internal audit strategy and charter
against which its services could be measured, as well as work
relating to the Members Estimate.
224. On the staff review side IRS continued to provide
assistance on the appropriate pay band for posts in pay band A
and below at the request of Departmental Establishments Officers
and completed a programme of review of senior posts including
the Director of Finance and Administration, the Serjeant at Arms
and the Librarian.
225. The central procurement office
(CPO) is responsible for drafting and disseminating House-wide
procurement policies, initiatives and best practice advice. It
works closely with procurement professionals in other departments
and in the House of Lords, providing advice on House-wide purchasing
activities as well as giving hands-on assistance. Its aims are
to ensure that all risks are addressed and mitigated and that
the House achieves best value for money. The CPO has a duty to
ensure House procurement exercises are conducted according to
both UK and EU law, and to take account of any changes or developments
that affect the legal regime. It maintains an intranet site to
provide information to House staff about procurement best practice,
provides a communications link for external suppliers, and publishes
information about House procurements on the internet.
226. Between April 2004 and March
2005 the CPO has been involved, to a greater or lesser extent,
in 53 procurement exercises and has responded to over 1,240 written
or email enquiries, mostly from external sources. Procurements
are categorised as: (a) small value, simple form contracts, reviewed
or drafted by CPO; (b) procurements of greater value and complexity
where CPO acts largely, and solely, in an advisory role; (c) competitive
contract exercises, usually high value and complex, requiring
direct CPO support. Of the 53 procurements, twenty fell into category
(a), with a combined value in excess of £400,000; five projects,
valued in excess of £15 million per annum, fell into category
(b); and the value of the remaining 28 category (c) contracts
totalled more than £28.5 million, with a combined first-year
value of over £8 million.
227. Further to the work carried
out inside the House, the CPO informs suppliers about the procedures
that govern House of Commons' procurements, to broaden supplier
involvement in the competitive process and thereby improve the
quality and quantity of bidders and maximise value for money options.
Fire Safety and Training
228. Fire safety, like all aspects of health and
safety, is a key priority for the House Service and there is a
strong concern to make the parliamentary estate as safe as possible
for Members, staff and visitors.
229. The modern fire protection strategy for the
Palace includes fire compartments and automatic fire detection
in every room. The primary fire compartment boundaries designed
to resist a fire for 60 minutes have now been completed and the
secondary compartment boundaries with 30 minute resistance are
now being installed. Automatic fire detectors are in place through
most parts of the Palace and the remaining rooms will be equipped
over the next four years. All buildings on the parliamentary estate
have current fire certificates and fire evacuation drills have
been carried out.
230. The House has sought to enhance the safety of
Members and staff through a comprehensive fire training programme
and the appointment of members of staff as evacuation marshals.
62 Members and 223 Members' staff attended the training in 2004/05,
a large increase on the previous year but still leaving considerable
room for improvement. Further courses are being arranged in 2005/06.
231. The House of Commons actively applies policies
for the conservation of energy, to minimise waste, and, where
possible, to recycle waste products.
232. The House of Commons is committed to increasing
efficiency in the use of heating fuels and electricity. Eleven
per cent of electricity is purchased from renewable sources and
in 2004/05 energy consumption was reduced by six per cent compared
with the previous year
233. The current energy conservation strategy includes
high efficiency boilers and chiller plant in the Palace, which
were commissioned in March 2004; investment in other energy saving
schemes offering pay-back periods of up to seven years; and encouraging
economy in energy use by occupants through a network of nominated
'energy savers' in the departments of the House. An energy saving
partnership has been established with the Carbon Trust, which
has provided training for technical, catering and office keeping
234. The House aims to minimise waste and maximise
reuse and recycling. Recovery techniques are used for all waste
which cannot be recycled. In 2004/05 the proportion of waste recycled
increased by two per cent to 29 per cent, compared with the previous
year. All the waste which could not be recycled was recovered
by incineration to generate electricity. Materials which are recycled
include paper, cardboard, glass, metals, cooking oil, lamps and
printer cartridges. The Waste Recycling Group met regularly during
the year and worked to promote and assist with waste recycling.
Following a review of the House's environmental performance, which
reported in Spring 2004, efforts during the year have concentrated
on increasing the proportions of waste paper and glass which are
recycled. This work continues.