Department for the Economy Board minutes 2023 - 25 May 2023

Minutes from the Departmental Board meeting on 25 May 2023.


  • David Malcolm (chair) 
  • Mike Brennan (present for first item)
  • Mark Lee (deputising for Heather Cousins)
  • Shane Murphy
  • Name redacted
  • Sharon Hetherington
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Paul Grocott
  • Fiona Keenan (non-executive board member)
  • Michael McKavanagh (non-executive board member)

In attendance

  • Name redacted (CMB)
  • Name redacted (CMB)
  • Name redacted (CMB secretariat)
  • Lisa Morgan (for ODT)
  • Will Young (for HR update)
  • Michael Cooke (for HR update)
  • Robert Kidd (for HSE presentation)
  • Name redacted (for HSE presentation)
  • Name redacted (for HSE presentation)
  • Name redacted (for HSE presentation)
  • Name redacted (for HSE presentation)


  • Michelle Bell, Heather Cousins and Alan Russell

Agenda items

Agenda item

Actions arising from discussion

Action wwner and current position (to be completed prior to the next Board meeting)

Agenda Item 1: Board Register of Interests/ Conflicts

No new interests declared.


Agenda Item 2: Strategic Issues

Mike Brennan presented:-

  • NICS Board discussed renewal and transformation of the NICS this week.
  • HOCS has been having sessions with the party leaders regarding budget implications. Pressures will be very large by September and may increase rapidly.
  • This is a time of great uncertainty for officials.
  • Appointments of Tourism NI Board need extended. Some ALB Boards will struggle to remain quorate.
  • G7 & G6 roadshows attended by Mike. They have concerns about leadership communication with them.
  • Some G3 moves have been announced. Heather Cousins will leave DfE to go to DE on 17th July to be replaced my Moira Doherty on 1st August. The Board conveyed its thanks for Heather’s work in DfE.
  • In response to a query from Lisa Morgan on a later ODT paper on Organisational Design, Mike reflected that we needed to be conscious of the transition and messaging about moving to a four G3 model but that the direction of travel was already agreed in terms of the move.



Agenda Item 3: HSE NI Presentation

Robert Kidd, Chief Executive of Health & Safety Executive NI presented.



  • Some 130 Civil Servants.
  • Annual budget some £8m, 93% of which is staffing costs.
  • Approx 40 inspectors, market compliance, complaints team, marketing & communications team and general support.



  • Preventing the most serious workplace health & safety issues.
  • High risk industries and activities.
  • Sensible & proportionate risk management.
  • Effective regulation.
  • Supporting businesses and the economy.


Robert detailed a long list of activities and responsibilities undertaken by HSE NI.


Looking Ahead

In the next 5 years they are planning on 3 large campaigns in years 1, 3 and 5.

  • Workplace Transport Initiative.
  • Occupational Health – MSDs and Occupational Lung Diseases/ Cancers.
  • Working at Height.



Agenda Item 4: HR Update

A standard paper regarding resource & workforce has been provided. Of note:-

  • There are vacancy concerns in light of the budget with 115 suppressed posts.
  • There are 31 long term absence cases (22 anxiety/ stress/ depression, 7 of which are work related stress).
  • 17 cases are under consideration for inefficiency.


Michael Cooke, Director of Business Partnering Team and Will Young, Director of Employee relations, Occupational Health Service and Learning & Development introduced themselves to the Board.

  • The new organisation within their teams was summarised.
  • There will be changes by the Autumn including increased focus on people not process.
  • Working in collaboration and providing customer service and support is key.
  • Standardisation and consistency in approach is needed.
  • They need to be data driven, research and evidence based.
  • They have identified key priority task lists in occupational health.
  • They have started regular case management with Occupational Health.
  • There will be a new Occupational Health Target Operating Model by the end of the month.
  • Employee Relations processes are being end to end mapped, with considerations given to centres of excellence, improved service and removal of duplication
  •  Learning & Development is undergoing major review of products, services and delivery methods – including greater focus on key skills to support the current environment, Management & Leadership Development, succession planning and induction.
  • NICSHR will be able to generate live absence management information to share with Departments early summer onwards.
  • There will be comms of new messages to all staff.


DB was encouraged at the very positive messaging albeit was guarded as there was still a lot of work to pick up. It was agreed to invite Catherine Shannon, NICSHR Director, to Sept or Oct Board to hear of the progress made by then.



Agenda Item 5: Organisational Delivery & Transformation Programme

Board members convened a Programme Board meeting.



Agenda Item 6: Minutes of meeting 27th April

Agreed without amendment.


Agenda Item 7: Budget Discussion

Sharon Hetherington presented:-

  • A Board presentation on 2023/24 draft budget proposals was referred to which captures the current position.
  • We got around £28m more than expected.
  • Savings to be modelled were shown.
  • Mitigations to cuts were shown.


Next Steps

  • Equality screening of draft budget proposals ongoing.
  • Launch of consultation – end of May.
  • DfE 2023/24 budget finalised – July 2023 using responses received in first 4 weeks of consultation.
  • Responses received between weeks 5 to 12 will be used to inform further mitigation measures and reallocations during 2023/24.
















Agenda Item 8: Papers for Decision

Risk Register

  • The reason why a legislative risk was marked as red was discussed. The Board agreed the Corporate Risk Register quarter 4 updates.


Business Plan

  • The Board agreed Business Plan quarter 4 progress updates.



Agenda Item 9:

Papers to note

DfE Part Input to TEO Monthly Summary Report EF Act

  • No questions.


Quality Improvement Team Annual Report

  • No questions.


Higher Education Tuition Fees Revenue Raising

  • The timeline is this autumn to be clear where we are going. There is an October deadline to be aware of as well.
  • Grants and higher value courses were discussed.


New Trading Arrangements Arising from the Windsor Framework

  • No questions.


Trade & Investment for a 10x Economy

  • No questions.


Project Stratum & Project Gigabit

  • No questions.



Agenda Item 8: AOB

There was no other business.



Date of next meeting: Thursday 29 June 2023 at Magee Campus 

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