Department for the Economy Board minutes 2023 - 30 March 2023

Minutes from the Departmental Board meeting on 30 March 2023.


  • Mike Brennan (Chair)
  • David Malcolm
  • Name redacted (deputising for Heather Cousins)
  • Alan Ramsey (deputising for Shane Murphy)
  • Name redacted
  • Alan Russell
  • Michelle Bell
  • Sharon Hetherington
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Ciaran McGarrity (deputising for 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)
  • Name redacted (for HR and vacancy update)
  • Name redacted (EY - for ODT)
  • Name redacted (EY – for ODT)
  • Brendan Murtagh (for DfC)
  • David Hunter (for DfC)
  • ​​​​​​​Harry Connolly (for DfC)


  • Heather Cousins
  • Shane Murphy
  • Paul Grocott

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: Organisational Delivery & Transformation Programme

Board members convened a Programme Board meeting.





Agenda Item 3: HR and Vacancy Update

(Name Redacted) presented the situation regarding vacancies, including those undeclared.


  • Finance and NICS HR have engaged with Groups across DfE and now have a better understanding of the situation.
  • Of declared vacancies, circa 100 due to temporary arrangements and circa 33 agency staff.
  • 72 vacancies filled since Dec, about 1/3 filled from within DfE – similar position across NICS. Staff in post is only up circa 20.
  • Age profile of staff remains an issue for DfE and across NICS, particularly if there is a recruitment freeze and natural wastage.



Agenda Item 4: Community Wealth Building

Harry Connolly, David Hunter and Brendan Murtagh from The Independent Advisory Panel on Community Wealth Building (CWB) presented on the findings of their report to advance CWB in NI.

  • The 5 pillars are: plural ownership; locally-rooted finance; fair employment and just labour markets; socially productive use of land and property; and progressive commissioning, sourcing and procurement of goods and services.
  • Examples of where collaborations with business organisations, government, local authorities and local communities worked well were discussed. These included one in Larne and also with Casement Park.
  • The need and benefits of producing more locally and having social clauses in contracts was emphasised.
  • Richard and Ciaran will follow up with the presenters with a view to links to Energy and City Deals.

Agenda Item 5:Minutes of meeting 23rd February

Agreed without amendment.


Agenda Item 6: Strategic Issues

A number of areas were discussed:

Perm Sec visit to Brussels

  • DfE needs to increase the size of staffing in the Bureau in Brussels as a result of the Windsor Framework and NI Protocol.
  • There needs to be an increased awareness across DfE and ALBs about additional workloads going forward.

Invest NI Review

  • A DfE steering group has been working jointly with Invest NI.
  • ‘Buy-in’ with their Executive Leadership Team is important.

Tourism NI

  • There are issues regarding regularity of their processes.

EF Act

  • There are variations across departments how they are using and interpreting it.
  • There is a requirement for Accounting Officers to live within budget.
  • New legislation is likely.

Agenda Item 7: Finance Update

Sharon Hetherington presented:

  • Finance Directors met yesterday with the DoF Budgeting Director. DoF will meet the NIO again this week.
  • It is not clear when the Secretary of State will set the budget for 2023/24. DoF is of the view that, unlike last year, it cannot set a contingency planning envelope.
  • AP: There is a need to communicate with ALBs re 2023/24 budget.







Sharon Hetherington

Agenda Item 8: Papers to Note

Feb 23 EF Act DfE monthly summary report to NIO

  • No questions.

Research & Analytical Programme

  • No questions.

City Deals

  • No questions.

ARAC Minutes

  • No questions.

Research & Analytical Programme

  • No questions.










Agenda Item 9: AOB

There was no other business.



Date of next meeting: Thursday 27 April 2023 at Adelaide House, Belfast. 

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