Learning and improving through engagement
The complex and technical nature of the Tax Collection and Management (Wales) Bill led the Finance Committee to hold an informal stakeholder event before formally considering the Bill. The event was designed to give participants the opportunity to share their views and provide scope for more open discussion. The Committee was keen to hear from tax specialists and representatives of the legal and accounting sector, and secured continuous professional development accreditation for the event as an added incentive for people to attend. Following the event, participants gave positive feedback that they welcomed a full and frank discussion of the issues and wanted to attend similar events to discuss future devolved tax Bills.
As part of our mission to increase engagement in committee work, Commission staff, in partnership with Chwarae Teg, developed a training programme aimed at encouraging more women, particularly those from underrepresented groups, to take part in committee activities. The programme was designed to de-mystify the experience of giving evidence to a committee and build confidence in speaking in front of an audience. As well as receiving presentations on the committee process from Assembly Members and Commission staff, participants were asked to produce a written submission, in advance of presenting it to a mock committee meeting. The programme has been running for two years and has received very positive feedback from participants.
The Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee used an expert panel of three legal practictioners to consider a first draft of a report on making laws in Wales. The Committee was able to test initial findings and recommendations with the panel, which was extremely useful in helping to ensure a high-quality and well-received report.
In March 2016 we ran the Senedd10 campaign to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Senedd and raise awareness of the Assembly, its Members and their work. The campaign also formed part of a wider programme of activity to promote the Assembly election.
The Presiding Officer held a lunchtime reception on St David’s Day to celebrate the achievements of the Fourth Assembly and thank those individuals and organisations that helped the Assembly over the past five years. In the evening, the ‘Building for Democracy’ event saw the Senedd’s architects, Lord Richard Rogers and Ivan Harbour, discuss their thoughts about the Senedd a decade after its opening. Menna Richards OBE, former controller of BBC Wales, chaired the event which was delivered in partnership with the Royal Society of Architects Wales.
The Senedd also hosted a weekend of family fun, attracting over 3,000 visitors, and including performances by S4C’s Sioe Cyw, Britain’s Got Talent finalists Ysgol Glanaethwy and local groups City Voices Choir and No Fit State circus.
The Senedd10 campaign attracted significant media coverage, including live broadcasts from the Senedd on St David’s Day by BBC Radio 2, Radio Wales and Radio Cymru.
Modernising the debating chamber
The conferencing, voting and audio technology systems used in the Senedd Siambr, our debating chamber for Plenary meetings, were installed in 2006. At that time they were innovative and ground-breaking. This technology served successive Assemblies well. However, ten years on, we began to experience significant reliability and support issues and Members began to query its continuing suitability.
In response, the Commission undertook a complex project to select, procure and install new systems within the Siambr. We took the opportunity to improve the ergonomics of the desk-working space for Members and to improve accessibility. As a result, Members now have a new flat desk. We have installed a new voting/translation panel within the desks, as well as facilities to charge mobile devices. We have also upgraded the speaker system and microphones for each desk to provide clearer audio across the Siambr.
Members and staff now have high definition wide screens. The screens on the front desk, where the Presiding Officer and officials sit, can be retracted to provide an unrestricted view for special events such as the Royal Opening.
We have also installed a new conferencing software system to manage the business of Plenary. This includes the agenda, the speakers list, procedural information, voting and messaging.