Wednesday, 27 November 2013
10. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the impact departmental budget cuts in 2014 will have on job and enterprise creation agencies and their ability to deliver existing programmes and commitments. [50482/13]
Like all Departments, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will have to work from a reduced budget next year. This question relates to the impact that reduction will have on the ability of job creation agencies to carry out their work, particularly in the context of some of the multi-year plans that have been announced.
Arising from Budget 2014, the 2014 Exchequer allocation to my Department and the agencies under its aegis has been set by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform at €781 million. This allocation comprises a current allocation of €339 million and a capital allocation of €442 million. Individual allocations across my Department and its agencies will be presented in early December as part of the Revised Estimates Volume. It is expected that Exchequer capital allocations, together with capital carryover and reinvestment of income generated by agencies, will maintain job and enterprise creation agency allocations broadly in line with 2013 expenditure. This will facilitate the continued delivery of a range of enterprise and research and innovation programmes, which are crucial in achieving a return to economic growth and the generation of sustainable jobs across the enterprise base, from micro-scale enterprise to the largest multinational.
These measures will deliver a range of improvements in 2014. The House has been given details of the IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland targets, the investment in mentoring and the establishment of the local enterprise offices. Two new large and internationally visible research centres are being funded by Science Foundation Ireland in sectors of national strategic importance. Continued support is being given to more then 20 world-class Science Foundation Ireland research centres and to a cohort of 3,000 researchers to maintain and drive Ireland’s job creation strategy. I will not go through all the details. Budget 2014 will also enable the continued delivery of almost €2.5 billion in new non-bank credit schemes, some of which we discussed earlier. These schemes will target the full range of businesses from micro-enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises to mid-sized Irish exporting businesses and high-growth technology firms.
I would like to ask the Minister about two areas. I will focus on the first of them in this part of my supplementary questioning. The Minister mentioned IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland in his reply. He said earlier that those agencies will be aiming to create approximately 24,000 net jobs next year. A report published in October was critical of the loss of a number of key personnel from Enterprise Ireland. It has been unable to replace them because of the ban on recruitment. The Minister is aware of the importance of Enterprise Ireland, which is being given extra roles and responsibilities as part of the roll-out of the local enterprise offices. It is being given that additional workload at a time when key personnel who have departed are not being replaced. How confident is the Minister that Enterprise Ireland can continue to play a vital role in job creation, in light of the enhanced roles and responsibilities I have mentioned and the departure of a number of key personnel from the organisation?
Unfortunately, the agencies operating under the remit of my Department and every other Department are being reduced in size. That is the reality within which we are working. There have been reductions of approximately 15% in staff numbers. Departments and agencies have been required to seek to work in a smarter way by reorganising their activities. Enterprise Ireland has been particularly flexible in seeking to reallocate staff resources to areas of priority and responding to the changed environment in which it must operate. Obviously, there is pressure to continue to operate with the reduced staff numbers. Enterprise Ireland's performance in recent years is testimony to its success in doing that. The approach we are pursuing, which involves building collaboration between the local enterprise offices, Enterprise Ireland and the local authorities, is helping to extend the reach of all agencies at a time of diminishing staff resources for all of them. We have to think outside the box as we try to deliver with a reduced staff resource.
I thank the Minister for his reply. Has he discussed with the Minister, Deputy Howlin, the possibility of lifting the embargo on recruitment to allow Enterprise Ireland to fill the key positions that are currently vacant? I am led to believe that the budget of InterTradeIreland will be reduced by approximately 4% per annum over the next three years. This means there will be a cumulative 12% reduction. As the Minister is aware, InterTradeIreland plays a key role in cross-Border trade. There should be a focus on the potential for job creation and increased co-operation between North and South regarding business start-ups and enterprise. In fairness, the Department has done that. Obviously, this type of budgetary reduction will have an impact on its activities. In a reply to a recent parliamentary question, the Minister said he was confident that InterTradeIreland could continue to fulfil its role. It is increasingly difficult to see how that might happen, however, in light of the level of budgetary reduction being faced by the organisation.
There has been a 17% cut in the Department's promotional budget. As I said earlier, there are many schemes but there is very little awareness of them. Who will fund the local enterprise offices? Will the ability of the offices to promote schemes and to get the message out be supported by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government or by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation?
A number of questions have been asked. We have received agreement from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to fill some key positions in Enterprise Ireland. There will be ongoing discussions between his Department and my Department on how the capacity of Enterprise Ireland might be developed against a background of resource constraints. Clearly, we will continue to find plans that will help to deliver this in an effective manner.
I am confident that InterTradeIreland can continue to deliver. It has been very successful. I think it will be able to continue to manage its well-established programmes within the resources available to it. There is a good level of take-up of these successful programmes, which are having an impact.
Under the service level agreement between Enterprise Ireland and the local enterprise offices, I will be funding the offices' activities that fall into the enterprise sphere. We will continue to fund the existing staff, the grants and the initiatives being taken by the local enterprise offices under their mandate. As the Deputy knows, we are bringing the local authority business units into those offices. They will deliver services together. The local authority business units will deal with planning and other service issues that are of concern to businesses. Under the service level agreement, we will be part-funding the delivery of services through the local authority network. That is the funding mechanism that will be used.