Thursday, 3 October 2013
County Enterprise Boards (Dissolution) Bill 2013: Second Stage (Resumed)
I welcome the Minister to the House. My colleague Senator John Kelly has spoken on behalf of my party and I will add some comments.
The county and city enterprise boards have done an excellent job during the past 21 years. They were set up in 1992 and I was a member of the first South Tipperary county enterprise board. It was one of the most worthwhile committees that I served on during my time in local government. The CEBs provide hope to communities by providing a kick-start when people set up a business and help them by providing mentoring. Society is facing change. This area is no different. I am a former councillor and with many others in this Chamber I have called for reform of local government and for more power to be devolved to local authority members. I am glad to say this is an example of that happening.
I believe that all work relating to job creation should emanate from the local authority and should be administered under the local authority system. There needs to be accountability in terms of finance and decision making. Each county enterprise board has an individual mission statement specific to its geographic area. Nobody is better placed to put that mission statement and business plan in place than those who are elected by the people who understand their own areas. When this change is implemented, we will see greater levels of job creation emanating from the new structure. It is critical that the power and decision making with regard to job creation across the country has an input at local level. Nobody knows better than the elected members of a local authority the opportunities for job creation on the ground in their area.
We have complained about centralisation of decision making, that local authority elected members were not having a say. I served with very good people from the various pillars of business, community, agriculture and so on in my time on South Tipperary Enterprise Board. At the end of the day, we were answerable to the organisation we represented. The elected members of the local authorities are answerable to the people. That is the key difference. I look forward to the new process whereby greater involvement and input can occur through the services that will be provided. Recovery of the economy has started but there is a long way to go. I am very proud of the fact that 33,000 jobs were created in the past year, that unemployment figures are reducing but I am not blinded by the fact that in excess of 400,000 people are unemployed. It is incumbent on us to ensure that the structures that have served us well for more than 20 years can be improved and will be improved by this legislation.
The Minister will be well aware that the county councils in Tipperary north and south riding will be amalgamating. Does the Minister know what impact that will have on staffing numbers and the role of the new structure in County Tipperary? I would appreciate if that specific question was answered.
I welcome the Bill and I look forward to its passage through the House.