Department for the Economy Board minutes 2021 - 27 May 2021

Minutes from the Departmental Board meeting on 27 May 2021.



  • Mike Brennan, Permanent Secretary (chair)
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Heather Cousins
  • Paul Grocott
  • David Malcolm
  • Shane Murphy
  • Colin Woods
  • Sharon Hetherington
  • (name redacted) (HR Business Partner)
  • 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)
  • Ciaran McGarrity (for presentation only)
  • (name redacted) (Deputy Director of Corporate Governance Division)
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: City Deals Presentation

Ciaran McGarrity made a presentation on NI City and Growth Deals. The following areas were discussed:

  • Platform for 10X.
  • DfE Role.
  • Key Risks.
  • New Approach to delivery.


The following key points were made:

  • This is an opportunity to drive transformation.
  • This is ring fenced funding.
  • This is a bottom up approach driven by local authorities who come up with ideas and have DfE support and agreement.
  • This is how we push growth across NI including regions who have not benefitted from that targeted investment before.
  • This is a new approach to how we fund things. 2/3 of all funding will come through DfE.
  • Any innovation project will be high risk.
  • Policies and programmes across DfE, DAERA, DoH and DfC must align with delivery of these projects.
  • Projects must represent value for money.
  • This is a priority to DfE and Finance Ministers and has been taken to the Executive to confirm this.
  • 55 FTE DfE staff required to deliver – currently 27 in post, 11 vacancies in process of being filled.


Actions: Ciaran to prepare paper on City Deal risks for Board after summer recess


Ciaran McGarrity

Agenda Item 3: Agreed without amendment. Action points cleared.  

Agenda Item 4:
Strategic Issues

There was a discussion on a number of areas:

  • The Skills Strategy was issued to consultation yesterday.
  • DoF Minister’s paper on review of ALBs.
  • Zoom session with staff yesterday on ODT, New ways of working and Pulse Survey. Attended by 716 staff.
  • A workpiece commissioned by DoF on behalf of the new Independent Fiscal Commission.
  • The current position with Brexit and the NI Protocol.

Actions: DoF workpiece request to be shared with NEBMs, cc Perm Sec Support.










Sharon Hetherington

Agenda Item 5: Year End Updates

The Deputy Director of Corporate Governance Division (name redacted) made a presentation on Year End Updates:

  • Business Plan: 117 actions last year split between covid and BAU. A lot of slippage due to including - focus on covid response, resourcing pressures, high vacancy rates. A lot of these actions are out of our control and long term. The detail of the progress updates is in the Annual Reporting Accounts which has been released to the Audit Office and will be published subject to the Board’s agreement
  • Risk Register: Recommend that 3 risks be removed - Risk 6 (shared prosperity fund), Risk 10 (EU Exit and tax credits), Risk 4 (Single Electricity Market – to be de-escalated)). This leaves 19 risks.
  • Paused Work Register: 88 workstreams had been paused due to covid and by the end of the year this was down to 20. 15 of these need to recommence, 5 not likely to recommence.
  • The Board expressed concern about the large amount of work being carried out by the Dept and how sustainable this is.


Actions: The Board agreed to remove/de-escalate the 3 risks from the Risk Register, the Delivery Committee should take Business and Risk Registers by correspondence rather than formal meeting and that the Paused Work Register is no longer monitored centrally but by business areas.


Research required re what other Depts do with long term risks out of their control with a view to reporting to Board in Sept.


A session to be arranged with Leadership to identify any work that could be paused or postponed to free up resources.


























Colin Woods




David Malcolm

Agenda Item 6: RHI Lessons Learned

Colin Woods made a presentation on RHI lessons learned.

  • The paper presented is an update to the paper brought to the Board last autumn setting out progress against the findings.
  • Nothing requires urgent action at present.
  • It was noted iro recommendation 27 that adequate resource is currently unavailable and this is not deliverable.

Agenda Item 7: AOB

  • The Board wished to record their condolences on the sudden death of colleague (name redacted).
  • (name redacted) Permanent Secretary’s Office will circulate a forward planner for comment and to complete with respect to their strategic areas.
  • A presentation to Board on Staff Engagement by staff was requested. Michelle to approach (name redacted) to present in August Board.

Actions: Forward planner to be circulated, Board to complete with respect to their strategic areas.


(name redacted) to be approached to present on Staff Engagement in August Board meeting.









(name redacted) Permanent Secretary’s Office to circulate/Board to complete

Michelle Bell

Date of next meeting: Thursday 24 June 2021 at 10.30 am.

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