Thursday, 24 June 2021
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
172. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the estimated cost of creating a State-funded workers’ cooperative development unit with ten staff on the average public sector wage and €10 million in funding to promote and develop workers’ cooperatives. [33979/21]
The co-operative model is one of a number of legal options for an enterprise structure available to those considering establishing themselves in business. My Department does not promote one structure over another and the enterprise supports developed by the Department and its agencies are available to co-operatives where they meet the criteria for such supports. It is premature at this stage to speculate on how co-operatives could most appropriately be supported into the future and whether a dedicated development unit would be necessary. Should such a unit be considered, then its proposed functions would determine the number and skillsets of staff and associated grades and salary levels. My Department is prioritising the supports and assistance available to enterprises, including co-operatives, in the context of economic recovery and the challenges ahead including climate action and digitalisation.
However, it is clear that the laws underpinning co-operatives are in need of reform and my Department is well advanced in the preparation of a general scheme of a Co-operative Societies Bill. This Bill will consolidate and modernise the existing Industrial and Provident Societies legislation and provide an effective and robust legislative framework for the diverse range of organisations using the co-operative model in Ireland, including worker co-operatives. The Bill will support the co-operative ethos and introduce new / expanded provisions across a range of areas including registration; corporate governance; compliance; financial reporting; and powers of the Registrar of Friendly Societies. This will provide co-operatives with a modern and fit for purpose legislative basis on a par with other legal structures such as companies.
In the context of enactment of the Co-operative Societies Bill, my Department intends to engage widely with stakeholders including the co-operative sector, professional advisers, development agencies, relevant Government departments etc. to raise awareness of the modernised legislative basis underpinning co-operatives as an attractive option for entities wishing to operate under the co-operative ethos.