Department for the Economy Board minutes 2022 - 24 February 2022

Minutes from the Departmental Board meeting on 24 February 2022.


  • Mike Brennan (Chair)
  • David Malcolm
  • Heather Cousins
  • Shane Murphy                        
  • Sharon Hetherington
  • (name redacted)
  • Paul Grocott
  • Alan Russell
  • Michelle Bell
  • Joe Reynolds (deputising for Richard Rodgers)
  • Colm McKenna (Non-Executive Board Member)
  • Fiona Keenan (Non-Executive Board Member)
  • Michael McKavanagh (Non-Executive Board Member)

In attendance:

  • (name redacted) (Permanent Secretary’s Office)
  • (name redacted) (Secretariat)
  • (name redacted) (Boardroom Apprentice)
  • (name redacted) (For ODT only)
  • (name redacted) (For ODT only)

Apologies:  Richard Rodgers

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



Agenda Item 2:Minutes 27/1/22 Board Meeting

Agreed without amendment.


Agenda Item 3:

Strategic Issues

There was discussion on a number of areas:-

  • A lack of an agreed budget is causing increasing difficulties for the Department and ALBs.
  • Practicalities and constraints imposed on Ministers due to the current political situation.


Agenda Item 4: Monitoring Round and Finance Update

Sharon Hetherington presented.



  • The new legislation that allows Ministers to stay in place restricts the Secretary of State from giving a budget framework.
  • Looking forward for a comparison, previous year’s expenditure can’t be considered typical as it contains covid expenditure.
  • DfE opening agreed baseline for Resource DEL is circa £11m less than in the draft budget which wasn’t sufficient. Contingencies will need to be considered.
  • The draft budget does not contain funding for DfE strategies.
  • Concern about the ability to use money next year if work slows too much with budget uncertainty.
  • Concern of an underspend this year due to slowing of work. Viable alternatives are being considered to minimise this.
  • The Permanent Secretary has now signed the Accounts following confirmation from the Audit Office that he may do so.
  • C&AG is expected to sign the Accounts on 1st March with a laying date of 4th March and possible slight slippage. The Economy Committee will then be immediately briefed.


Agenda Item 5: Questions on Papers to Note

HR Update

  • Ongoing work on recruitment activity and changes to policies. End to end review slightly delayed.
  • Absences comparable to other Departments are on a par with pre-covid.
  • AP: Quarterly reports provided by NISRA on sick absence will be supplied for March Board


NI Protocol Update

  • There is currently unfettered access selling to GB but no long-term regime.


Trade & Investment Update

  • Focus is currently on the export side.


Vocational Qualification Reform

  • Scotland and Wales not going down the ‘T’ level route. We are looking at their systems.
  • Portability of qualifications is a consideration.


Risk Register

  • The Board agreed the closure of 2 risks and the de-escalation of 2 risks.


Business Plan

  • The Board agreed Q3 progress updates.
  • Next year’s business plan - we are clear what our strategic aims are but budget is a challenge.


People Survey Results

  • Good results, though a couple need looked at. Further details in March.


Vision for a 10x Economy

  • Refocus within Department and ALBs to prioritise 10x.


Performance Mgt – In Year Reviews

  • Difficulties improving compliance include long term illness and system problems.

(name redacted) advised she is preparing guidance to address the system problems.

(name redacted)

Agenda Item 6:
Organisational Delivery & Transformation Programme
Board members convened a Programme Board meeting for the rest of the available time.  

Agenda Item 7:


Media Article re Spend Local Scheme

  • The Irish News ran an article this morning saying there is an external body to evaluate this scheme. AP: Detail of this to be provided to Board.


HR Key Facts Document

(name redacted) will produce a key facts document at DfE level for next Board for consideration. It will be similar to that provided to NICS Board.

Paul Grocott


Date of next meeting – Thursday 31 March at 10.30am

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