House of Commons Commission - Twenty-Third Annual Report

Department of Finance and AdministrationAnnual Report 2000-01

1. Introduction

The Department of Finance and Administration has responsibility to provide efficient, effective and economic services to Members, the House of Commons Commission, Board of Management, Departments and staff of the House:

  • for Members (and their staff), the Department provides services on pay, allowances, pensions, personnel and other financial matters and (for Members only) medical screening;

  • for the Commission, Board of Management, Departments and staff of the House it provides financial, payroll, personnel, occupational health safety and welfare advisory services and other management services; and

  • providing advice and sponsoring other work on improving House-wide structures, policies and activities (e.g. through the Board of Management, Planning and Management Committee, Planning and Management Committee (Finance), and Information Systems Steering Group). This aspect of the Department's work is intended to help the whole House administration to operate increasingly effectively and acceptably, in light of changing expectations.

The Director of Finance and Administration is the House's Principal Establishments and Finance Officer. Through the Clerk of the House, as Accounting Officer, he provides the Commission with information and advice and is the Finance and Services Committee's key adviser. The Department administers the 'Votes' of the House of Commons. It also administers the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund, the House of Commons Staff Pension Scheme and provides financial and accounting services for the History of Parliament Trust, the British Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body and payroll services for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and Inter Parliamentary Union.

2. Plans and achievements

The Department's aim, for the year, was to improve its performance and provide a better, faster and more efficient service to all its customers. High level goals are shown below, annotated with the outcome and achievement.



Pursue a business change and development programme to improve customer service, by concentrating on improvements to processes, enhanced training and development and achievement of Investors in People (IiP):

The business improvement programme is transforming and streamlining the Department. To provide top quality services efficiently, it is changing the way it does things and, in parallel, developing staff to their full potential. The programme's four improvement areas are customer service, process improvement, training and development and team building.

Following successful recognition as an Investor in People in December 2000, the Department is continuing with its commitment to the principles of IiP. It has launched a co-ordinated development scheme for managers, called the Active Management Programme. In the workplace, it is putting into effect the approaches and techniques acquired through a customer care training programme.


The Department will continue to participate fully in House-wide initiatives and groups, and to support associated organisations, including the Board of Management:

As a department dedicated to providing corporate House-wide support services, it has pressed strongly in the past 3-4 years for an overall corporate approach to House management and support. This is now bearing fruit, following the Braithwaite report, and the Department is co-operating fully with key senior management groups and the Office of the Clerk to achieve more effective and efficient governance.

The Department has played a leading role and much work has been done in developing more modern management through the Planning and Management Committee (Finance) chaired by the Director of Finance Policy. Developments include introducing a requirement for business cases to support significant investment proposals; co-ordinating the House-wide business planning process, and work on corporate performance measures and demand management.


2.3  relocation to 7 millbank

Plan and prepare - in consultation with PWD - for the department's relocation to 7 Millbank:

The Office has worked closely with PWD and PCD in getting ready for the Department's move to Millbank - planned for the first two weeks of September 2001. A dedicated project group has been set up which will oversee the detail. The aim is to have a seamless move and to make sure that the Department's customers continue to get a good level of service.


Oversee the contracts for the Travel Office and Westminster Gym, ensuring reliable and cost-effective services:

The Department now has responsibility for the management of the Travel Office after the successful tendering exercise and award of a new contract to American Express. The Westminster Gym, managed by Jubilee Hall Clubs, is operating effectively and has received positive customer feedback. The Gym has been extensively refurbished, and has continued to flourish with the inclusion of two new services to staff - an in-house physiotherapy service and a medical referral programme.



Implement and manage a programme of Equal Opportunities training throughout the House:

The House of Commons Commission endorsed a programme of equal opportunity initiatives. This included training for all staff (over 1,200 staff were trained by the end of 2000), disability awareness training, outreach initiatives to local schools to encourage more job applicants from ethnic minorities, and a pilot holiday playscheme.


Promulgate and advise on implementation of Health and Safety policy and codes of practice (e.g. on alcohol):

The Department successfully introduced a Health and Safety Risk Management Strategy (five-year plan) together with a Health and Safety Policy and Alcohol Code of Practice. A full training programme for all levels of staff was put in place and was well received. The Department successfully negotiated a new contract for increased medical services with St. Thomas' Hospital.


Early 2000 saw the production and publication of a revised Staff Handbook for House staff. The second edition will be issued in June 2001.



Develop financial and wider management policies and strategies for the House. Develop integrated business planning (including financial, manpower and project planning) and continue to improve the quality and content of the 3-year planning and annual Estimates exercises for the two House Votes:

The Directorate provided information and discussion papers to support the work of PMC(F) (see page 21). As part of the work on Resource Accounting and Budgeting (see below), the management and control systems for the accounting data and the fixed assets register were improved. The Directorate has reviewed the processes, timetable and mechanisms for business planning to ensure better integration with cross-House groups.


Manpower plans produced by departments were used to help calculate the paybill for the 2001-02 Estimate. This is now being used as the basis for the House's 3-year resource planning exercise.

In 2000 the Internal Review Service (IRS) conducted a review of all bids for additional manpower funding. Their review assisted the Board of Management to identify and achieve a significant reduction in the baseline forecasts. IRS is currently engaged in a similar exercise during the current round of the 3-year resource planning exercise.


The Department will improve the speed of production of statutory accounts and financial returns, develop and improve the financial services provided to associated bodies and organisations and improve the management accounts and forecasts in accordance with the Braithwaite recommendations:

Statutory accounts were produced in May 2001, compared to June 2000. New financial arrangements were introduced for the History of Parliament Trust. New "Braithwaite" management information reports were produced for the Board of Management in line with the implementation plan.


Continue the programme for implementing Resource Accounting and Budgeting (RAB), including introducing resource budgeting:

Significant progress on the implementation of Resource Accounting and Budgeting has been made during the year, including:

  • consolidation of the Administration and Works Votes into a single Administrative Expenditure Vote. This new Vote has now absorbed the Refreshment Department trading account;

  • laying the 2001-02 Estimate on a resource basis; and

  • co-operation with the Treasury on the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000, which amends the House of Commons (Administration) Act 1978 to bring in resource budgeting for the House of Commons.



To separate IT and IS activities and arrange for the Parliamentary Communications Directorate (PCD) to take responsibility for IT support:

At a practical, day to day level, much has been done to achieve this, with PCD now providing IT support for all the Department's computer hardware. The PCD and Departmental help desks work closely together to achieve a relatively seamless service, which is assisted by both using the same call tracking software. There is still work to be done to formalise a service agreement and to resolve issues in the "grey area" of overlap between IT and IS.


To plan for major systems replacement in the period 2002-2004, with the specific aims of meeting the enhanced information requirements outlined in the Braithwaite report, and developing a distributed, more devolved approach to personnel and financial responsibilities:

The Departmental Access Project (DAP) which ran from August to December 2000 provided considerable information about the needs of departments. This was fed into the replacement systems project, which became the House Administration Information System (HAIS) project in recognition of the corporate nature of the project's goals. The planning stages of the project have been completed, and procurement started in April 2001. The aim is to replace the staff payroll and personnel system from April 2002, and both Members and Secretarial payroll and the financial and accounting system from April 2003. The new generation of systems will make extensive use of the Intranet to provide personnel, accounting and management information services to all departments of the House.



The Department will identify opportunities for improving the provision of contracts and procurement services advice.

The House's Procurement Advisory Service has been further developed. Bought in on contract from the Inland Revenue, this has facilitated a number of major procurement exercises during the year. In particular, the consultancy framework agreement was a significant success.



Review key operational processes in all areas with a view to implementing significant improvements:

The Department has continued to standardise and streamline operational functions and, in particular, to set up a new structure (including further merger of common functions: payrolls, payments processing, financial and management accounts).


Support improvements in specific areas wherever there is a customer requirement:

A successful update of the Green Book and a new Quick Guide to Members' pay and allowances was completed during the course of the year. Following the introduction of new computer systems, there are now more frequent electronic payment runs, resulting in quicker payments to Members. There were teething problems in providing Members with monthly statements of commitments from their parliamentary allowances. These problems have now been resolved. A pensions clinic was also successfully piloted.


Institute regular customer meetings/surveys etc:

A series of meetings took place to introduce key customers to the structural changes implemented in November 1999. These started at Head of Department level and through to other key recipients of the Department's services. The Personnel Office regularly surveys Departmental Establishment Officers and other key personnel staff in departments, and has achieved consistently high satisfaction ratings. Regular contact with the Party Whips has also taken place on Dissolution and General Election issues as well as on the Senior Salaries Review Body Report on Members' Allowances.


Review and assess plans and preparation for a general election:

In addition to the participation in the House-wide New Members' Induction Group, the various sections within the Department which provide front line services to Members and their staff have worked together in preparing material and information for new Members after the General Election. In addition to this the Directorate has also worked at providing advice and guidance for all sitting Members as to what happens at the Dissolution. It has made presentations on pay and allowance entitlements at the weekly party meetings and also to the trade union meetings for Members' staff. Factsheets written in the form of "frequently asked questions" have also been prepared - not only as an aid to Members and their staff but also to the Department's staff who provide key services.

2.19 SSRB

Work with the Review Body on Senior Salaries (SSRB) on their consideration of allowances for Members:

The Department worked closely with SSRB officials while they were preparing their report covering Members' pay and allowances, which was published in March 2001. It is now preparing for implementation of the recommendations during 2001-02 if the House decides to accept them. This will be a major challenge, as the proposals represent the most far-reaching changes to the arrangements for a number of years.



Undertake a programme of audit and staff review as agreed by the relevant authorities:

The key milestone in the year, which is strongly valued by IRS, has been the setting up of the House's Audit Committee to advise the Accounting Officer.

IRS has now moved to a risk-based approach. This approach was piloted on the History of Parliament Trust and on binding and conservation in the Library. Both reviews were well received by management and there was positive feedback from the post-review questionnaires. The year has seen a further switch of emphasis, with IRS concentrating less on "watchdog" activities and more on advisory and preventative work.

The groundwork has been prepared for the House of Commons to commit to establishing, developing and maintaining a culture of House-wide risk awareness. A series of risk management workshops to raise awareness in this area will be undertaken in the forthcoming year. This will lead to a sustainable risk management framework .

IRS has also worked with departments to develop and implement systems for the scrutiny and validation of manpower forecasts and the use of manpower in the context of the annual resource planning exercise. This marks a step change from formal staff inspection towards greater devolved responsibility for staffing matters at departmental management level.

The number of projects completed in 2000-01 was nine (compared to four in 1999-2000, five in 1998-99, six in 1997 - 98, and three in 1996-97). While the provision of adhoc advice is still a feature of IRS' work the change from manpower planning and control by complement to the current system of planning and control by budget has, as predicted, resulted in a reduction of the need to provide in-year advice on grading issues. To a large extent this activity has been replaced by involvement in the process for concentrated periods of time coinciding with the key stages of the provisioning system.


Provide support and advice to the Personnel Policy Directorate and Departments of the House on issues of grading, organisation of work, and internal control:

On the staff and organisational review side, the joint review of pay band A2 and Senior Commons Structure band 2 posts within the Clerk's Department was brought to a conclusion. The review team consisted of the Review Manager and two representatives of the Clerk's Department. The review focused on the recruitment and development of the "clerkly" grades and raised a number of significant issues that are currently under consideration.

A further milestone this year was the development and publication of grading guidance for the pay band structure. This will be the primary point of reference for managers making decisions about the appropriate pay band levels at which to place staff within the freedoms granted by the manpower planning guidelines.

Andrew Walker

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© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 17 July 2001