Department for the Economy Board minutes 2020 - 17 December 2020

Minutes from the Departmental Board meeting on 17 December 2020



  • Mike Brennan, Chair
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Heather Cousins
  • Paul Grocott
  • David Malcolm
  • Shane Murphy
  • Wendy Johnston
  • Sharon Hetherington
  • Colin Woods                 
  • Lisa Morgan (NICSHR)
  • Colm McKenna (Independent Board Member)
  • Fiona Keenan (Independent Board Member)

In attendance:

  • Fiona Ruddell (Permanent Secretary’s Office)
  • Name redacted (Secretariat)

Agenda Item

Actions Arising From Discussion

Action Owner and Current Position (to be completed prior to the next Board Meeting)

Declaration of Interests

No new interests were declared.


Chairman’s Remarks


The Chair acknowledged this additional meeting of the Departmental Board to discuss a number of pertinent issues. No papers were circulated in advance of the meeting.







NIAO update


Sharon Hetherington provided an update on current communication with the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) on information being sought by NIAO on the Grant Schemes.


Colin Woods confirmed a team within the department is currently carrying out a piece of work looking at development of post-scheme validation work, including post payment compliance checks, recovery action checks. This will allow PPEs for all schemes, including development of lessons learned.















COVID-19 Update



The Chair outlined the proposed extreme lockdown measures over the Christmas period, including closure of retail and extension of school closures. The Chair also provided an update on discussions at Executive level of testing capacity and the rollout of vaccines, and the extreme pressure currently facing the health sector, particularly hospitals in Northern Ireland.


A discussion also took place on the impact of potential travel restrictions over the Christmas period, which is dependent on any decisions taken around maintaining air connectivity.




Grant Schemes

Paul Grocott provided the Board with an up to date position on the current DfE-led grant schemes and the potential for new schemes early in 2021.


Following a query from Colm McKenna, a discussion took place on the implications any additional grant schemes (such as the high street stimulus scheme) would have for DfE, particularly around funding and resourcing.













Resourcing    within DfE



Wendy gave an overview of the results of the Pulse Survey.



Wendy to send a copy of the Pulse Survey results to the NEBMs.


Lisa Morgan provided an update on the staffing position, both within DfE and throughout the NICS as a whole, including the NICS recruitment plan. 


Colm McKenna stated that if all identified NICS vacancies are filled the headcount will be back at pre Voluntary Exit Scheme (VES) levels, thereby questioning the purpose of VES. Perhaps this is something the NICS board should consider.








Wendy Johnston




 Date of next meeting: Thursday 21 January 2021 at 10.30 am

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