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- Stratagem Blog: 2011/12 - Progress or Procrastination, or a little bit of both?
Stratagem Blog: 2011/12 - Progress or Procrastination, or a little bit of both?10 July 2012
As the 2011/12 session draws to a close in the Assembly, it has been a year of mixed reviews on the overall performance of our elected representatives. Whilst the Assembly and Executive were applauded for holding a full four year term in the current mandate, there is a pressure from commentators and a will amongst parties that this mandate must focus on delivery.
So as we enter recess, what have been the successes of the Assembly thus far? If measured in the amount of legislation that has passed through the Assembly, you could be forgiven for thinking that it has been a relatively quiet year, with only four rather routine Bills achieving royal assent. However, such an analysis ignores the scale of reforms and hard graft taking place elsewhere.
With a lack of legislation on the floor of the House, the Assembly Committees are still proving to be perhaps the success story of our devolved legislature and the essential forum for engagement. The ever powerful Public Accounts Committee has continued to provide an essential scrutiny role to all government departments, with no less than nine comprehensive reports produced this year, whilst the performance of the DSD Committee deserves a considerable mention particularly in regards to its excellent work around fuel poverty and the thorny issue of welfare reform, pressing Northern Ireland’s case. However, some frustrated Committee members have argued that relationships and the flow of information between Committees and departments still need considerable improvement.
The Assembly Commission has maintained an emphasis on increasing transparency and openness, with increased public engagement initiatives, better communication through social media and a new look website rich in information. The consistent stream of research produced by the Assembly Research team has also been proving invaluable to policy makers and the public, with the Education team inviting in guest experts on areas of particular policy focus to raise knowledge levels in the Assembly.
Gradual shifts in long-established ways of working are now becoming evident. Turning the tankers of prison reform and health and social care delivery require constant tugs, and the momentum on both of these has well begun.
Of course “the handshake” moment and the build up to it may have been viewed as a distraction away from the bread and butter of local policy issues, yet was seen round the world as another milestone in our reconciliation process, despite indecision still remaining over the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration strategy.
The Executive will continue to meet over the summer months, where the discussions around the abolition of DEL and the establishment of ESA will be addressed. Coupled with a planned 26 Bills for the next session, we should be in for a very busy autumn period.