Department for the Economy Board minutes 2023 - 31 August 2023

Minutes from the Departmental Board meeting on 31 August 2023.


  • Mike Brennan (Chair)
  • David Malcolm
  • Moira Doherty
  • Shane Murphy
  • Richard Rodgers
  • Michelle Scott (deputising for Paul Grocott)
  • Michelle Bell
  • (Name redacted)
  • Fiona Keenan (Non-Executive Board Member)
  • Michael McKavanagh (Non-Executive Board Member)

In Attendance:

  • (Name redacted) (CMB)
  • (Name redacted) (Corporate Governance Secretariat)
  • Ryan White (Board Observer)
  • Lisa Morgan (for ODT)


Alan Russell, Sharon Hetherington and Paul Grocott

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: ODT agenda

Board members convened a Programme Board meeting.


Agenda Item 3: Minutes of the meeting of 29 June

  • AP1 from June meeting – A job forum was discussed, AP – a specific proposition to be developed – ownership to be moved to (name redacted) and Lisa Morgan.


Agenda Item 4: Strategic Issues

Mike Brennan presented:-

Retirement of DfE Permanent Secretary

  • Mike Brennan will be formally retiring in February 2024 but use of outstanding leave may mean an earlier last day in early December 2023.
  • A recruitment competition for Permanent Secretaries may be undertaken to fill this and other vacancies.
  • A temporary Accounting Officer will be required.

Enhanced Powers for Permanent Secretaries

  • The Secretary of State is proceeding with legislation to giver Permanent Secretaries enhanced powers.

Revenue Raising

  • The current situation with revenue raising for possible DfE areas of responsibility was discussed. Political engagement will be necessary.


  • Tariff deadline of 7th November for inclusion in King’s Speech. Business case and legislative clause required.
  • Judicial review of statutory process in court this morning. 4 cases need brought into the system.

Covid Inquiry

  • Discussion on how normal IT policy in relation to mobile phones and laptops had been applied, resulting in some loss of records.


  • The coal plant is unreliable and will close at the end of September. The cost to keep it running is too high.
  • A gas plant will come online once the coal plant closes.
  • Margins will be tight. SONI will manage the situation.


Agenda Item 5: Update on the Independent Review on Invest NI

Michelle Scott presented.

  • Steering Group meeting held on Tuesday.
  • 35 actions, each with delivery plans. Findings and recommendations agreed. Understanding on how things will change going forward.
  • Working on next steps. Will do external calibration.
  • Making sure actions in plan have senior buy in.
  • CEO applications close next Friday, interviews 11th October. A Chair competition will then launch. Work ongoing on G3 restructuring.
  • Will publish an action plan on 5th October which if implemented will deliver profound change.


Agenda Item 6: Budget Discussion

David Malcolm presented on the 2023/24 Mid-Year Financial Exercise.

  • An overview of the initial financial position was discussed. £29m of RDEL unallocated.
  • There was a discussion on NICS and ALB pay.
  • Funding to be allocated was discussed with options to utilise the £29m unallocated funding. There have been reduced requirements with a lot of technical easements.
  • The budget is difficult and challenging but balanced. There are plans if there are any slippages. There is a need for quick alert if there are any under/overspends.


Agenda Item 7: Papers for Approval

Corporate Risk Register

  • There are 12 risks, 4 new and 1 recommended for closure.
  • AP – wording of a risk on trade policy to be reconsidered.
  • The Board agreed the quarter 1 updates.

Commercial Capability Plan

  • We are more comfortable that those who require the training have received it. Some have requested the training but do not need it.
  • The Board agreed that the reporting on this will transfer to the Audit, Risk and Assurance Committee.
  • AP - Compliance information will be shared with G3s to take forward at group level.



Shane Murphy









Alan Russell

Agenda Item 8: Papers for Discussion

HR Update

  • The change to end-to-end recruitment was explained which was following a review. There will be a single point of accountability rather than it being fragmented.
  • In future there will be access to dashboards with real time access to vacancy requests and KPIs.
  • Age profile of staff and succession planning was discussed.





Agenda Item 9: Any Other Business

Further Education and Finance have a submission to go to Permanent Secretary regarding Public Sector pay.


Date of Next Meeting – Thursday 28 September, Adelaide House, Belfast

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