Department for the Economy Board minutes 2023 - 30 November 2023

Minutes from the Departmental Board meeting on 30 November 2023.


  • Mike Brennan (Chair)
  • David Malcolm
  • Moira Doherty
  • Shane Murphy
  • Paul Grocott
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Alan Russell
  • Name redacted (deputising for Sharon Hetherington)
  • Fiona Keenan (non-executive board member)
  • Michael McKavanagh (non-executive board member)
  • Name redacted

In attendance:

  • John McGrillen (for Tourism NI presentation)
  • David Roberts (for Tourism NI presentation)
  • Aine Kearney (for Tourism NI presentation)
  • Adrian Doherty (for Tourism NI presentation)
  • Catherine Shannon (for HR item)
  • Lisa Morgan (for ODT item)
  • Name redacted (Boardroom Apprentice)
  • Jeremy Gardner (Board observer)
  • Name redacted (Corporate Governance secretariat)
  • Name redacted (Corporate Governance secretariat)
  • Name redacted (Corporate Governance secretariat)


Sharon Hetherington and 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 Items 1 & 2: Arrival and Presentation from Tourism NI

John McGrillen, Tourism NI CEO, presented an overview of Tourism NI, including the Organisation’s Mission, Values and Programme of Delivery.

John outlined Tourism NI’s Operating Plan Priorities for 2024/25 and how these were aligned with 10X Economic Vision.

A Q&A session covered issues around budgetary constraints and the need to increase employment numbers and opportunities in the tourism industry.

The Board thanked Tourism NI for their very informative presentation and hospitality.


Agenda Item 3: Board Register of Interests/ Conflicts

No new interests declared.


Agenda Item 4: Apologies, Deputies and Board Observer

The chair noted apologies from Michelle Bell and Sharon Hetherington and welcomed (Name redacted) as Finance deputy and Jeremy Gardner as Board observer.


Agenda Item 5: HR Discussion

Catherine Shannon led a discussion on HR:

  • Pulse Surveys being carried out across departments.
  • Review of recruitment concluded that it needs to sit in one area within NICSHR to enable an ‘end to end’ process which allows for more accountability.
  • SCS recruitment has already moved to NICSHR.
  • Another review to look at all HR services being undertaken by external organisation.
  • OHS Delivery Model review by BCS. Senior medical lead secured, and new digitised system being procured.
  • Absence management requires standardisation – new Centre of Excellence being established.
  • Learning and development – Cross-departmental Forum established plus three Task and Finish groups.
  • Health and Wellbeing Framework – looking at a diagnostic tool to help identify areas in need of interventions.
  • Working with schools and universities as part of Talent Management Strategy to improve recruitment and retention of staff.
  • Need to look at incentivisation and opportunities to improve skill sets across NICS.
  • AP: Further HR update in six months.
























Catherine Shannon

Agenda Item 6: ODT agenda



Board members convened a Programme Board meeting.




Agenda Item 7: Minutes of Previous Meeting

Agreed without amendment and update on Action Points noted.


Agenda Item 8: Strategic Issues

Mike Brennan presented: -


  • The NICS overspend for 2023/24 is currently estimated at £400m at best but could be closer to £1bn.

Covid Inquiry

  • (Name redacted) and Laura McPolin commended for excellent work. Inquiry content with DfE input.

Invest NI

  • The Chair competition is in progress. Contingency plans to be considered.

Agenda Item 9: Budget Discussion

(Name redacted) presented an overview of the departmental financial position:

  • Options to reallocate £12.8m RDEL and £7.6m CDEL funding were discussed and agreed.
  • Options to utilise any unanticipated underspends should they materialise in either RDEL or CDEL later in the financial year were presented and agreed.
  • Review of Financial Processes – Schedule of adjustments covers 2020/21 to 2022/23 financial years – Annual Report & Accounts unlikely to be signed before January 2024.
  • The Board commended Finance Division for continued excellent management of departmental budgets.

Agenda Item 10: Papers for Discussion

Research and Analytical Programme

  • Discussion deferred to Agenda Item 11 on 10X.
  • AP: ASD to present broader discussion on wider research plans and analytical work to Board around April/May 2024.

Major Projects

  • SRC Craigavon project is high risk due to quashed planning approval. Consideration of potential alternative sites is progressing well.
  • Some projects may not require G3 level SRO.
  • Plans to amend project gateway thresholds and definitions.

HR update

  • All DfE returns received for SO/DP allocations.
  • A few withdrawn vacancies have been substituted.
  • Number of TPs reduced.




Shane Murphy













Agenda Item 11: Papers for Approval

Corporate Risk Register

  • The Legislation Risk 917 is not as much of a concern as it was due to greater certainty around Retained EU Law.
  • RHI Risk 262 will require significant amendments following issue of SoS letter. AP: Corporate Governance to liaise with Energy re amendments to Risk 262.
  • Q2 Corporate Risk Update agreed.

10X Delivery Plan Progress

  • Board recognised a lot of good work ongoing but limited economic impact.
  • Need to re-prioritise activities to gain maximum impact from available budget.
  • Shift in focus from activities to outcomes.
  • Partner Organisations crucial in achieving delivery of 10x Vision.
  • Annex A Draft Structure for 10X Delivery Plan to be sent to Partner Organisations to inform next year’s business planning process.
  • AP: Giulia Ní Dhulchaointigh to be invited to Board for further 10X discussion in Jan/Feb.

Health and safety update

  • Board agreed mid-year report and gave approval for Health & Safety training to be made mandatory.

Alan Russell
















Giulia Ní Dhulchaointigh







Agenda Item 12: AOB

No further business.


Date of next meeting: Wednesday 13 December 2023 at Belfast Met.


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