Department for the Economy Board minutes 2023 - 23 February 2023

Minutes from the Departmental Board meeting on 23 February 2023.


  • David Malcolm (Chair)
  • Heather Cousins
  • Shane Murphy
  • (Name redacted)
  • Alan Russell
  • Name redacted (deputising for Michelle Bell)
  • Sharon Hetherington
  • Name redacted (deputising for Richard Rodgers)
  • Ciaran McGarrity (deputising for Paul Grocott)
  • Fiona Keenan (non-executive Board member)
  • Michael McKavanagh (non-executive Board member)
  • Colm McKenna (non-executive Board member)

In attendance:

  • Name redacted (CMB)
  • Name redacted (CMB)
  • Name redacted (CMB secretariat)
  • Name redacted (board observer)
  • Lisa Morgan (for ODT)
  • Name redacted (for ODT)


  • Mike Brennan
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Paul Grocott
  • Michelle Bell

Agenda items

Agenda Item

Actions Arising From Discussion

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

Agenda Item 1: Presentation from NI Screen

Richard Williams, Chief Executive of NI Screen presented:

  • four-year funding cycle, mid-term every two years
  • spending target of £430m 2022-26 will be exceeded in real terms
  • one of primary values is sense of success and optimism
  • video games is highest growth area
  • Studio Ulster centre of excellence for virtual production. Partnership with Belfast Harbour and Ulster University. This is a City Deal
  • Belfast Stories new visitor experience also a City Deal though at a much less advanced stage than Studio Ulster. This is a regeneration project and tourism driver
  • CINE is a new initiative which aims to broaden access to the screen and creative industries at entry level. Targeting underrepresented ethnic minority, socio-economic, and disabled communities.

Agenda Item 2:Board Register of Interests/ Conflicts

No new interests declared.


Agenda Item 3:Minutes of meeting 26 January

Agreed without amendment.


Agenda Item 4: Strategic Issues

A number of areas were discussed:

NICS Board Non-Executive Directors

  • An introductory meeting has been held with the three new NICS Board non-executive directors. Their backgrounds are as an economist, business consultant and in HR. They gave significant challenge and showed great interest.

Invest NI Chair

  • Work is ongoing with the Commissioner for Appointments Office to appoint a new Chair.
  • An Interim Chair role will be offered to the 3 DfE Board non-executive directors. A conversation with purpose is taking place 24 February and it is hoped that the role will be filled by the next Invest NI Board meeting on 28 February.
  • The Interim Chair and Invest NI Board will decide the next steps regarding the recommendations in the recent report.

Agenda Item 5: Finance Update

Sharon Hetherington presented:

  • DfE had bilaterals with DoF on 17 February regarding the 2023/24 budget.
  • DfE made the point that education is wider than just the responsibility of Department of Education. There has been a decline in take up of further education courses in part due to COVID and inflated grades and also trends that fewer adults are up-skilling which is impacting the sector.
  • We will have to stop doing things as a result of cuts.
  • DoF will present two scenarios for the 2023/24 budget. We do not know what they will be. DoF can’t give granular information to Permanent Secretaries which creates difficulties for them making decisions.
  • HMT has advised they have no headroom.
  • DoF are trying to get overspends repaid over time.
  • We will ask 10x delivery plan groups on 24 February to consider where efficiencies can be made.

Agenda Item 6: Papers to Note

HR Update

  • There was a meeting with Fujitsu on 17 February regarding improving management information on sick absence. We need analysis and less data.
  • AP: Engagement needed with (Name Redacted)
  • Permanent Secretary stocktake meeting is being held 24 February. A communication may issue re this.
  • There has been increasing drop out from recruitment competitions partly due to how long they have been running. Rates are higher for lower grades. Analysis is being carried out.

Corporate Risk Register Q3 Update

  • The Board agreed the updates provided which reduced the number of corporate risks from 15 to 9.

DfE Business Plan Q3 Update

  • Most activities are ‘green’. The three ‘red’ all relate to Project Gigabit because of delays in receiving final DoF approval for the strategic outline case.
  • The detail of the forthcoming 10x delivery plan will be used to form the basis of the 2023/24 business plan.

RHI lessons learned progress

  • Nearly all recommendations are NICS wide.
  • Significant progress is being made in DfE.
  • An analysis with an action plan to address has been provided. The vast majority have been completed with 20 that haven’t being essentially the same thing. A timescale for these 20 should be considered.
  • An audit trail of decisions needs to be kept.

Resourcing & People Committee Update

  • No questions.

Jan 23 EF Act DfE Monthly Summary Report to NIO

  • This is DfE’s return to TEO who will then collate with other Department’s returns and pass to Secretary of State.
  • This is records of decisions normally made by a Minister, and now made under the EF Act.
  • There were 7 decisions in January.





(Name Redacted)










Agenda Item 7: Organisational Delivery & Transformation Programme

Board members convened a Programme Board meeting for the rest of the available time.


Agenda Item 8: AOB

There was no other business.



Next meeting

The date of next meeting: Thursday 30 March, Adelaide House in Belfast.

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