Thursday, 3 October 2013
County Enterprise Boards (Dissolution) Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed)
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Perry, to the House again. Sadly, our side of the House has already indicated that we will be opposing the dissolution of the county enterprise boards and the subsuming of their role into the local authorities. We believe that this is part of a pattern of Government decisions which have more to do with creating an illusion of reform than delivering real results, the detail of which I will go into later. There is a strong case for retaining and streamlining the existing structure with greater co-operation across county enterprise boards to share best practice ideas while retaining the ability to respond to specific local needs.
The enterprise boards were established "to fill the gap in the support services for local enterprises" and "to develop indigenous potential and stimulate economic activity at local level primarily through the provision of financial and technical support for the development of small enterprises". Significantly each board is made up of voluntary members representing the local authority, local or national agencies and local community interests. The boards employ a small number of staff who deliver board supports in the locality. As the Americans would say: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." We already have a representative group of people who embody both those who are elected representatives as well as those from the voluntary and civic society who deliver a service already. To put it in context, the county enterprise boards have supported the establishment of more than 13,500 businesses; assisted approximately 20,000 businesses to increase their sales, employment and exports; helped in funding business which created just under 35,000 jobs; led the promotion of an enterprise culture in schools and colleges, with more than 10,000 students per annum participating in county enterprise board programmes; provided training for more than 72,000 entrepreneurs and employees; and provided value for money job creation at an average cost of €5,500 per job.