Department for the Economy Board minutes 2023 - 27 April 2023

Minutes from the Departmental Board meeting on 27 April 2023.


  • Mike Brennan (Chair until 11am)
  • Heather Cousins (Chair from 11am)
  • Shane Murphy
  • (Name Redacted)
  • Sharon Hetherington
  • Michelle Bell
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Paul Grocott
  • Alan Russell
  • Fiona Keenan (Non-Executive Board Member)
  • Michael McKavanagh (Non-Executive Board Member)

In attendance

  • (Name Redacted) (CMB Secretariat)
  • Lisa Morgan (for ODT)
  • (Name Redacted) (for budget update)
  • (Name Redacted) (for budget update)
  • Louise Watson (for Review of the FE Delivery Model)
  • (Name Redacted) (for Review of the FE Delivery Model)
  • Donna Blaney (for Review of the FE Delivery Model)
  • (Name Redacted) (for Review of the FE Delivery Model)
  • Giulia Ni Dhulchaointigh (Board Observer)


  • David Malcolm

Agenda Items

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: Board Register of Interests/ Conflicts

No new interests declared.


Agenda Item 2: Strategic Issues

Mike Brennan presented regarding the 2023/24 budget:-

  • Secretary of State is expected to publish the budget this morning.
  • Significant concerns from Head of Civil Service and Permanent Secretaries.
  • Permanent Secretaries responsible for making difficult decisions. New draft legislation to take place before 5 June. Legal advice is being circulated.
  • There will be a meeting between Party Leaders and Secretary of State.
  • There are £1.9bn of inescapable pressures.

Agenda Item 3: Budget Discussion

(Name Redacted) presented regarding 2023/24 budget:-

  • Opening RDEL budget is £719m (later reported as £772m) but not comparing like-for-like so we need to understand the figures.
  • Previous reductions delivered in 2022/23 will impact on 2023/24 and it is important to recognise that those areas that delivered savings in 2022/23 that are expected to deliver again in 2023/24. It was agreed that this needs to be clear in any communications. (Name Redacted) outlined these.
  • There are savings made in 2022/23 that cannot be carried forward into 2023/24.
  • (Name Redacted) outlined the level of savings required in 2023/24 and detailed proposals of how these may be achieved. It was clarified for each proposal whether it required Permanent Secretary or Secretary of State approval. These were identified taking into consideration if they were discretionary, deliverable, any anticipated equality impact and the amount of additional funding previously given. Comms to explain how savings could be delivered is important.
  • Capital – there is no certainty of funding from 2023/24 which starts with an overcommitment of almost £12m.
  • Looking at 2024/25 budgeting has already started.

Agenda Item 4: Review of the Further Education (FE) Delivery Model

(Name Redacted) presented:-

  • Minister Lyons agreed to the 1st stage of a Review of the current FE Delivery Model in NI.
  • The purpose of the Review was to ensure the FE sector is operating as effectively as possible.
  • Key issues are declining enrolments and increasing costs.
  • The 1st stage of the review comprised 2 main strands; a quantitative benchmarking study and a qualitative exploratory engagement with stakeholders. Findings included a disparity of costs and success rates between each NI College and GB. Main factors from 2016/17 to 2021/22 relate to a reduction in enrolments, increase in the number of staff and increase in average pay. Investigation is being carried out to ensure the comparison being made is fully valid.
  • Stage 1 is now complete. Progression of Stage 2 has been agreed along with the approach.

Agenda Item 5: Organisational Delivery & Transformation Programme

Board members convened a Programme Board meeting.


Agenda Item 6: Minutes of meeting 30 March

Agreed without amendment.


Agenda Item 7: Papers to Note

Skills for a 10x Economy – 1st Annual Report

  • No questions.

HR Update

  • No questions.

Mar 23 EF Act DfE monthly summary report to NIO

  • No questions.

Update to the Major Projects List

  • Michael McKavanagh asked why the Agri Food Investment Scheme had been removed from the list. Alan Russell agreed to seek further information. Alan Russell Update: This project has been removed because the scheme is now business as usual within Invest NI and no longer qualifies for the Major Project List as it is not a business change project.

10x Delivery Plan

  • No questions.

Agenda Item 8: AOB

There was no other business.


Date of next meeting - Thursday 25 May, Health and Safety Executive, Belfast.

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