Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Dáil Éireann Debate
2. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation with respect to the new action plan for jobs, if he will detail the future relationship between county enterprise boards, local authorities and Enterprise Ireland; if his plan will necessitate the relocation of the physical enterprise facility to the local authority; if it will necessitate a reduction in the CEB work force; the overhead savings as a result of the reform; the future of the existing CEB boards; the way he will facilitate a reorientation of local authorities to ensure that they are enterprise focused in future; and the steps he will take to ensure uniform quality support for the small and medium enterprise sector following the amalgamation. [11687/12]
Deputy Richard Bruton: The new structure of local enterprise offices, LEOs, will build on the significant work done by the county enterprise boards to date. It will be achieved through the dissolution of the existing CEBs and the creation of a new micro enterprise and small business unit within Enterprise Ireland that will work with the local authorities to establish a local enterprise office in each local authority. The local enterprise offices will be staffed with a combination of local authority and CEB officials. The precise HR arrangements will be finalised as the process moves forward.
The aim of the proposal is to enhance the State services to small business at local level by delivering a one-stop-shop for small business; establishing a more integrated network between local and national enterprise support which will ensure high standards, uniformly delivered to benchmarked standards of best practice; offering a seamless service for small companies to take up the wider range of Enterprise Ireland programmes for companies with rapid growth potential; simplifying the structures that small businesses have to deal with; enlisting the local authorities into a more active role in small business support and local economic development; and encouraging innovative approaches to support small business.
In conjunction with the dissolution of the CEB legal structure, Enterprise Ireland and the local authorities will be tasked with the practicalities of setting up and rolling out a local enterprise office structure. There is clearly a lot of detailed developmental work to be done over the coming months to effect these changes and to put appropriate new structures in place. I will shortly establish a steering group chaired by my Department which will move this process forward and address all of the relevant issues. Clearly, it is essential that all relevant parties continue to work together to bring about this positive change as a priority and that the continuity of a high level of service to the micro-enterprise sector is preserved in the transition phase.
Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Today we found out that 7,131 young people, under 25 years of age, left the live register in the past month. Most of them left due to emigration and there is a strong view that we are entering into the times of the 1950s and 1980s with regard to the level of emigration. Some 76,000 people, or 1,300 every month, left last year. There is a view that county enterprise boards are the first line of enterprise development. They are what most young people have access to, given that they deal with small, start-up businesses. Hundreds of young people have used county enterprise boards. The amalgamation of the county enterprise board infrastructure into local authorities is dangerous. I do not say that it has no opportunity of working but there is danger. Local authorities have not been oriented towards enterprise in the past.
Deputy Peadar Tóibín: In many cases, local authorities have been orientated against enterprise. Given the seriousness of the jobs crisis, which cannot be underlined enough, what resources will the Government put in place to reorient local authorities to ensure they have an enterprise culture? An enterprise culture will not be created overnight or in a year. Local entrepreneurs and small businesses see local authorities as the place to pay fees and rates.
Deputy Richard Bruton: I could not agree more with the Deputy. The implication of this is vital. There are two dimensions, one of which is creating a strong small business unit in Enterprise Ireland, which will create excellence and standards, allocate budgets and hold local authorities to benchmarks of business friendly standards. There will be that level of engagement from a centre of excellence in Enterprise Ireland. Equally, local authorities are being enlisted to reform their small business units and county development boards and to orient themselves towards the needs of local enterprise and become more active in shaping local economic development. There are wins on both sides. There is access for small businesses to all programmes developed by Enterprise Ireland and oversight by a centre of excellence in Enterprise Ireland of enterprise culture and instruments. There is also a call to action within local authorities to deliver to small businesses according to the standards expected.
Like Deputy Tóibín, I meet businesses that complain about the response of local authorities. This is about reforming that and bringing local authorities to be part of the solution to the enterprise challenge. It is very exciting, with great potential for wins, which the Deputy recognises in his question while also saying bí cúramach.
Deputy Peadar Tóibín: The Minister mentioned that Enterprise Ireland will have a significant part in directing this process. The fears of Deputies is that regionalisation of administration often leads to uneven delivery of service. For example, Kildare gets nine times as much investment from the IDA as Meath. My view is that this is because it is delivered on a regional basis. If the driving of the new enterprise function in each county is regionalised by an Enterprise Ireland office, there is a danger that it will become uneven in its delivery.
Many third level institutions have incubation centres. Unfortunately, counties such as Meath do not have third level institutions or incubation centres. While this is being rolled out, the Minister should examine the savings achieved and ensure counties without a third level institution have an incubation centre.
Deputy Richard Bruton: Nurturing social enterprise and commercial enterprise at local level is vital. Much of what county enterprise boards and Enterprise Ireland do is demand-led. We must nurture but we must also see them come forward with proposals. There is a strong regional mandate of Enterprise Ireland to nurture businesses. In the south east, we put in extra resources to create a better seedbed for enterprises to grow and come forward. The IDA is a different issue but we can build up both, so that there are standards and benchmarks of expectation. Mentoring must come to a certain standard and the way companies are dealt with must increase to a certain standard. That will be built into the service level agreement between Enterprise Ireland and the local office. We also seek to engage local authorities in creating the environment in which businesses can thrive. It is a two-way process. We create incentives at both ends and we hope this is what will drive the matter.
3. Deputy Seamus Healy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in view of the fact that according to the Central Statistics Office, the Quarterly National Household Survey for quarter 3 of 2011 shows that the total number employed in the economy declined by a further 20,500 in that period, his views that the outcomes of the QNHS on the total employed in the economy over the next year will be the definitive verdict on his action plan on jobs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11691/12]
Deputy Richard Bruton: The action plan for jobs has the objective of supporting the creation of 100,000 net new jobs over the period to 2016, with a longer-term objective of having 2 million people at work by 2020. The action plan does not pretend to be an instant solution to the scale of the unemployment problems we are facing. It is, rather, about addressing the fundamental requirements to enable businesses to start-up and grow. It is about grinding out reforms to our policies, structures and systems, one by one, to put in place the environment where jobs can be created and, most importantly, sustained in the long term.
In this context, trends in employment over the next few quarters cannot be the definitive verdict on the action plan. The plan will be judged by the successful implementation of reforms, the monitoring of their impact, the development of further actions in 2013 and beyond and the employment trends over the horizon of the plan to 2016.
We recognise that 2012 is going to be a difficult year due to the downgrade of forecasts in many of our export markets. Clearly, trends in global economics will have an effect on our trade and investment ambitions but we are trying as far as possible to be masters of our own destiny through the action plan for jobs.
The Government recognises that many problems in our economy must be fixed in order to put enterprise in the position to expand output, win new markets and employ more people. We are targeting sectors of the economy that can grow and we will work with employers and business representatives to identify what we can do better to maximise job creation.
This action plan differs from reports published by previous Governments, which failed to deliver due to the lack of determination on the part of Ministers to follow through on implementation. It is not a strategy document but a series of actions we have committed to delivering and is supported by detailed tables that identify the key steps to be taken each quarter and the people or agency responsible for delivering the intended outcome. These tables have been published and progress on the deliverables is being overseen by a monitoring committee comprising senior officials from the Department of the Taoiseach, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, my Department and Forfás.
Deputy Seamus Healy: Is it not a fact that this Government is a jobs destruction Government and that the number employed in the economy since the Government came to office has decreased significantly? The CSO figures for 30 June show a decrease of 4,000 jobs. The CSO figures for 30 September show a reduction of 20,500 jobs. Surely that is the definitive judgment on the so-called jobs budget introduced last year. Are we destroying jobs? Is it time for the Government to get involved in the direct creation of jobs and to forget about the idea that the Government is only there to provide the environment for jobs? It is time for the Government to recognise what has happened up to now has been a failure. It needs to get directly involved in the creation of jobs.
Deputy Richard Bruton: I do not know whether Deputy Healy got a chance to go to the Mansion House today, where 92 of the most exciting companies in Ireland committed to create 1,600 jobs over the next two and half years across every region. They are the sort of people who will create the economic future of this country. Their story needs to be celebrated more. It would do the Deputy a power of good to go down and feel the energy there.
The record does not show that the jobs initiative was a failure. As the Deputy knows, it cut VAT and PRSI rates for the tourism sector. We secured growth as a result. The employment figures to which he referred show there was growth. We are going through an extremely difficult transition. Some sectors grew beyond sustainable levels in this economy. We know about construction and banking, which grew to unsustainable levels. We now have to undertake the difficult task of rebuilding the sectors that can bring us growth in the future. That is what the action plan for jobs is about.
Deputy Seamus Healy: It is quite clear that up to 30 September last year there were 25,000 fewer jobs in the economy. They are black and white statistics from the CSO. It is an indictment of the Government. We all welcome any job announcements from any companies. Unfortunately, the record shows there has been an investment strike over the past few years by private funds. The ESRI is forecasting a reduction of 41,000 jobs in the economy over the next two years. On the basis of those figures, it is time for the Government to start creating jobs.
Deputy Richard Bruton: The Deputy knows the Government is constrained in its public finances. Effectively, the country has been in a form of receivership. Only one agency will lend to us, namely the troika, and we have to abide by certain stringencies that result from that. Within that, we are using the money we have extremely creatively. The strategic investment fund and NewERA are taking €250 million from the pension fund and leveraging it to a €1 billion fund which is available for infrastructural investments. The sort of quality investments that can improve our infrastructure now have a fund available to them. The rolling out of that into projects will be an important element.
A lot of the initiatives, such as the development capital fund and the innovation fund, are bringing in private sector money and making it available to companies that are starved of credit from the banks. Again, that is innovative in that it is bringing in investment money that is lying fallow and using it for companies with high potential. We have to box cleverer in this environment. There is not the scope for the huge bankrolling spending programme the Deputy feels ought to happen. It would be great if we could have that but we have to be cleverer about the way we promote employment, and that is what we are seeking to do.
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