Written answers

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation

County Enterprise Boards

9:00 pm

Photo of Willie PenroseWillie Penrose (Longford-Westmeath, Labour)
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Question 101: To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation his plans regarding the structure of county enterprise boards in view of a speech that he made (details supplied); if he will acknowledge that the key difference between county enterprise boards and other industrial development agencies is that the county enterprise boards are based and operated at local level, and they provide a range of complimentary supports to enterprises including accessible informal first stop shop for people starting or planning to start their own business and a range of soft supports for businesses which include information, advice, management training and skills development programmes, mentoring services and financial supports, including the provision of feasibility, employment and capital grants for projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28512/10]

Photo of Batt O'KeeffeBatt O'Keeffe (Minister, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork North West, Fianna Fail)
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The County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) have played a pivotal role in stimulating local economic development through sustaining and growing the micro enterprise sector across the country since their establishment.

In addition to financial supports, micro-enterprises have been supported by the CEBs through a range of business advice, information, and mentoring services, as well as various management training and capability development programmes. The local focus of the CEBs and their agile ability to respond quickly to local needs is a key aspect of the service which they provide to micro-enterprises. Such a dedicated State support for the micro-enterprise sector should continue to be provided and should be delivered as close to the client as possible.

The CEB structure has existed in its current form since 1993. In the context of the recommendations of the McCarthy Report and continuing pressures on the public finances and staffing resources, the time is now right to evaluate the appropriateness of this structure. It is imperative that we strive to exploit fully the potential for reducing administration and overhead costs, while ensuring that the provision of financial and other services to clients is maximised.

Since my appointment as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, I have been reflecting on what institutional arrangements might best deliver the necessary supports to micro-enterprise. My preliminary conclusions are that the separate legal structures of the 35 independent CEBs presents challenges in terms of administrative overheads, resource maximisation and staffing rigidities in responding to the impact of the recruitment embargo. I am also examining the role of Enterprise Ireland and its relationship to the CEBs in supporting indigenous enterprise and the extent to which that agency may have a greater role to play in supporting micro-enterprise. I will bring proposals to Government on this before the summer break.

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