Department for the Economy Board minutes 2020 - 30 July 2020

Minutes from departmental board meeting 30 July 2020



  • Mike Brennan, Chair
  • Colin Lewis
  • Heather Cousins
  • Diarmuid McLean
  • Paul Grocott
  • Wendy Johnston
  • Sharon Hetherington
  • Colin Woods                                
  • Lisa Morgan (NICSHR)
  • Colm McKenna (Independent Board Member)
  • Fiona Keenan (Independent Board Member)


  • Richard Rodgers
  • Shane Murphy

In attendance:

Name redacted (Secretariat)

DB 43/2 Monthly Finance Update (including Budget 20/21)



Sharon Hetherington gave an overview of current activity, namely:


  • the outcome of June monitoring round
  • an exercise from DoF to allocate Barnett Consequentials; and
  • the annual accounts progress – including:  a new Qualification around irregular expenditure on the Small Business Grant Scheme; and

a new “Emphasis of Matter” around PMS.


Colin Woods updated the Board on a possible issue around Ministerial direction.


The Board noted the Finance paper and agreed the recommendation to redirect funds within FE Division.



DB 43/3 Business Impact Analysis update

Colin Woods updated the Board on the current Business impact. It was noted that of the 88 workstreams paused at the start of the pandemic 46 remain paused.

It was noted that the likely resumption of C3 in the Autumn would place further pressures on the Department and that some workstreams previously recommenced may have to be paused again.

It was suggested that ARAC might usefully consider how divisions are managing key workstreams.



To be considered at next week’s ARAC meeting


The Board agreed the recommendations at section 3 of the paper.















Colin Woods

DB 43/4 ARAC June Board Minutes

Colm McKenna updated the Board on the June ARAC meeting. It was noted that the Internal Audit Report was satisfactory.



DB 43/5 Corporate Risk Register


Colin Lewis updated the Board on the latest Risk Register.

The Register was agreed in its current format.

It was also agreed that the Delivery Committee would consider any further refinements/ revisions.

The Board agreed to share the report with the Economy Committee but that the Chair should write to NICS Board in advance advising them of the intention to release.



Risk specific Board meeting to be set-up


Chair to write to the NICS Board advising them of the intention to share the DFE Corporate Risk Register with the Economy Committee

















Colin Woods




DB 43/6 Draft DfE Board Agenda 30 July 2020


The Board agreed to add the following to the September agenda:


  • Progress Report on GDPR/DPA





Board members welcomed the new format of papers.


Members noted that there would be no meeting in August.




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 updated the Board on the following issues:


  • The current position with HMS Caroline and in particular the role of DETI from 2012 - 2015.


Chair to speak to Kieran Donnelly NIAO.


  • RHI – Executive Paper will be submitted shortly for agreement on the way forward.
  • Graduate Medical Entry School.
  • Grade 3 competition

















DB 43/1 Action Points from 25 June 2020 Departmental Board Meeting

The minutes were agreed without amendment.


Action points were noted as complete or ongoing.


Departmental update re COVID-19



Economic Impact of Covid-19

Paul Grocott advised that the latest Labour Market report had been published. This showed that 50% of furloughed staff had not yet returned to work. A spike in unemployment is expected in the Autumn.


The gravity of the situation does not yet appear to be understood by policy makers, stakeholders and the Executive.


It was suggested that the EAG and the EU stakeholder groups could be used to greater effect to get the message out.


Chair suggested that TEO should establish an External Stakeholder Group.


Board members were advised that Shane Murphy is contacting the “Scottish Panel of Experts” to invite them to participate in EAG.


It was noted that Shane Murphy is to present a paper to the next EAG.



Paper to be copied to NEBMs


The SOG held its first meeting. Much of the discussion centred on Covid. Agreed to consider prioritising delivery of key programmes.


It was noted that HOCS is leading the Executive’s recovery strategy which has 9 workstreams. It was felt that this needed to be reduced and that the Economy should be the number one priority




Colin Lewis updated the Board on Resourcing & People.


The current 10% vacancy rate is totally unacceptable and the centre is not moving quickly enough to address the department’s needs. A focus on filling posts needs to be a priority


The Department will also need a material uplift in staffing levels going forward to enable it to lead the economic recovery. It was noted for example that insolvencies and redundancies were likely to increase significantly in the short term leading to an increase in the work of Both the Insolvency Service and Redundancy Payments branch.


Lisa Morgan confirmed that 86 business critical vacancies in DfE are being progressed but recognised that NICSHR needs to move forward with corporate recruitment and promotion competitions as soon as possible.



Wendy Johnston advised the Board that the first meeting of the Pulse Survey Project Board would take place on Monday 3 August to commence work on addressing the staff feedback on issues related to working from home and how to use DfE accommodation in light of social distancing.  She also advised that work on the asbestos removal from the Reception area in Netherleigh would begin week-commencing 3 August for at least 12 weeks. Details including how to access the House and Main Building would be posted on the Intranet.



Letter to issue to NICSHR re unacceptable delays in resourcing via corporate competitions.

Update to be provided to the Board on levels of Annual Leave.

Breakdown of Business Critical Posts to be provided to NEBMs





Paul Grocott updated members on Brexit. Likely to the Autumn before there is any substantive progress.


Major concerns about the volume of legislation required and of keeping the Committee sighted on this.



Consideration to be given to providing a further briefing session to the Economy Committee


Business Support


Diarmuid McLean updated the Board on the current position of a small number of outstanding applications.


He advised that there were some 300 appeal cases for the hardship fund being considered.


He highlighted the volume of correspondence cases being handled by the team.

He also advised that options for the £53M surrendered were being considered.




























Shane Murphy


























































Lisa Morgan



Lisa Morgan


Lisa Morgan















Paul Grocott







Date of next meeting is Thursday 24 September at 10.30am.

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