Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation
County Enterprise Boards
Question 221: To ask the Minister for Jobs; Enterprise and Innovation his views on whether there is a high variability in the performance of county enterprise boards; the steps he will take to ensure high, consistent performance across CEBs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17321/11]
The principal role of all 35 County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) is to provide support for the micro-enterprise sector in the start-up and expansion phases, to develop indigenous micro-enterprise potential and to stimulate economic activity and entrepreneurship at local level. The criteria under which financial assistance is available from the CEBs is based primarily on factors such as the sector of the economy in which an enterprise is operating or intends to operate and the size, or proposed size, of the enterprise. The enterprise must be in the commercial sphere, must demonstrate a market for the proposed product/service, must have a capacity for growth and new job creation and must not employ more than 10 people.
All CEBs must give priority to enterprises in the manufacturing or internationally traded services sector and they must always consider any potential for deadweight and displacement arising from the provision of assistance to a proposed enterprise.
The CEBs can offer both financial and non-financial assistance to a project promoter. The forms of financial intervention, which are available, subject to certain restrictions, include Priming Grants, Business Expansion Grants and Feasibility Study Grants. The provision of non-financial assistance can take the form of a wide range of business advice and information services, management capability training and development programmes, e-Commerce training initiatives etc. Training courses can include such topics as start-your-own-business, taxation for beginners, internet marketing, ideas generation and negotiation skills.
Individual CEBs carry out their activities in accordance with standard Operating Agreements which are monitored by the CEB Central Coordination Unit within Enterprise Ireland ensuring a consistency across all CEBs. Although all CEBs thus work off an identical set of eligibility criteria and an identical suite of financial interventions, there are certain differences between CEBs as to how they apply these interventions e.g. the individual level of a grant or the refundability level applying to a grant payment may vary. I am of the view that it is appropriate and feasible to allow individual Boards a level of discretion and flexibility in the way in which they provide financial assistance, and deliver their "soft supports", so as to enable them to take account of the economic conditions and sectoral demands particular to their area of responsibility, the differences in requirements and emphasis and the overall budget available to them in any given year.