Department for the Economy Board minutes 2021 - 27 August 2021

Minutes from the Departmental Board meeting on 27 August 2021.



  • Mike Brennan, Permanent Secretary (Chair)
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Heather Cousins
  • Geraldine Fee
  • David Malcolm
  • Shane Murphy
  • Colin Woods
  • Sharon Hetherington
  • (name redacted)
  • Michelle Bell
  • Colm McKenna (Non-Executive Board Member)
  • Fiona Keenan (Non-Executive Board Member)

In attendance: 

  • (name redacted) (Permanent Secretary’s Office)
  • (name redacted) (secretariat)
  • (name redacted) (for presentation only)
  • (name redacted) (for presentation only)
  • (name redacted) (for presentation only)

Agenda Item

Actions Arising From Discussion

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

Agenda Item 1:Declaration of Interests

No new interests were declared.

Agenda Item 2:Minutes 24/6/21 Board meeting

Agreed without amendment. There were four action points which have been progressed.


Agenda Item 3: Strategic Issues

There was a discussion on a number of areas:

  • High Street Voucher Scheme – procurement, cost, risks, timing and delivery.
  • HMS Caroline – cost, which would be capital.
  • Review of Invest NI – terms of reference cleared.
  • Chief Scientific & Technical Officer – the Chair of Matrix will take this role on an interim basis.
  • Discussion regarding difficulties in publishing a Programme for Government.

Agenda Item 4: Staff Engagement

(name redacted), Chair of the Pulse Survey Project team, gave an overview of the Project Team work and the key things from that:

  • The 3 Pulse Surveys influenced the work that was taken forward.
  • Objective to implement help and advice for all staff.
  • 3 key themes – Communications & Engagement, IT and Mental Wellbeing & Working from Home.
  • Creation of Staff Support Hub, including inform you guides and induction. 4th most visited page on the Intranet.
  • Going forward – senior management to encourage teams to keep using Staff Support Hub.


(name redacted), a member of the Communications task & finish group, gave a presentation on her role and on induction in particular.


Agenda Item 5:
SMT Away Day and New Ways of Working

Michelle Bell updated on the preparation for the SMT away day which will be held on 23/9/21:

  • An opportunity for Senior Team to build resilience and talk to each other in an informal environment.
  • (name redacted), The Health Champion for the NICS and (name redacted) from NICSA will facilitate.

Michelle Bell updated on New Ways of Working:

  • This is to create a diverse and inclusive workplace culture and encourage high performing people.
  • Factors that have been considered include technology, having staff in a suitable environment and accommodation.
  • The purpose is to involve all Departments in shaping the future ways of working and establish common principles.
  • DfE are creating their own bespoke principles while mirroring the rest of NICS.
  • Any funding must be found in existing budgets.
  • Benefits include improvement in health and wellbeing of staff, working in a more agile way, reduction of carbon footprint, attraction of new recruits outside N.I. and optimisation of rationalised NICS estate.
  • Departmental working groups being set up.
  • Regional hubs are being established.
  • DfE to mainly be hybrid working model with 40% minimum in the office.
  • Pilot of return to office with full roll out possibly by end of December which could be affected by external factors.

Actions: Contact to be made with FSA for lessons learned re hybrid working.















































Michelle Bell

Agenda Item 6:

NI Protocol Update

Shane Murphy updated on the position with the NI Protocol. The following key areas were discussed:

  • UK request to reopen negotiations.
  • Scope for negotiations.
  • Border considerations.
  • Timetables
  • Potential impacts and risks.





Agenda Item 7:


(name redacted) updated on recruitment.


  • AO/EO2/EO1 interviews have either concluded or are being concluded. Analysis is underway regarding those successful in more than one competition.
  • No update on when Assessment Centres likely to take place for SO/DP, though the planning assumption is for the autumn. HR Connect have contacted remaining candidates to determine whether they want to remain in the process
  • Ongoing work in HR looking at Department’s baselines, vacancies, turnover projections which will be presented to NICS Board as a resourcing plan.
  • G7 allocations have almost been completed. One G7 taken from DoF list.
  • Other resourcing solutions are being considered.

Actions: HR Business Partner to raise lack of progress with a trawl run by Heather Cousins. Also to raise concerns about lack of progress in relation to the SO/DP competition and the impact on DfE.





























(name redacted)

Agenda Item 8: Risk Management and ODT update

(name redacted) updated on developments with the risk management process and updates to the risk register:

  • High Street Voucher Scheme – risks will be included in the risk register and any approval will be by correspondence.
  • 2 risks have been proposed for removal from the register, leaving 17 risks.
  • A web based system will be introduced. A contract has been entered into with Decision Time. The risk management framework is being customised and there will be subsequent training.
  • Contingency planning is being built into the approach.


Colin Woods gave an update on the ODT Programme:

  • The contract for the Strategic Consulting Partner is about to be awarded.
  • Additional staffing resource has been agreed to drive the pace. 3 G7s start 6/9/21, 2 more to be confirmed.
  • A Gateway review is scheduled for the last week of September. There will be a planning meeting next week with recommendations and a plan to be presented at October Board.


Agenda Item 9:


  • The revised terms of reference have been circulated for the Resourcing & People Committee. It isn’t always required for G3s to attend, except David as the Chair. The People element has been removed as is being dealt with by ODT and New Ways of Working.








Date of next meeting: Thursday 30 September 2021 at 10.30 am 

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