Government approves drafting of legislation to dissolve CEBs and create new and enhanced support model for small business

The Government this week gave the go-ahead to begin drafting primary legislation to dissolve the existing County & City Enterprise Boards and create an enhanced national micro enterprise support model, delivered through Local Enterprise Offices to be established in each Local Authority office, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD announced today (Wednesday).

Minister Bruton together with the Minister of State for Small Business, John Perry TD, also today launched a four week public consultation on the Government’s reforms of supports for the micro-enterprise and small business sector, and sought the views of all stakeholders, in particular small businesspeople and small business representative groups, to the plans.

The key elements included in this reform programme are:

·        Establish a Centre of Excellence for micro and small business supports within Enterprise Ireland
·        Establish a network of Local Enterprise Offices in Local Authorities incorporating the enterprise-centric focus of the City & County Enterprise Boards following their dissolution. These Offices will operate under a robust Service Level Agreement with Enterprise Ireland
·        Create the best possible local environment for small business by combining enterprise support for business at local level with the business support service and expertise of Local Authorities
·        Develop a strong network for entrepreneurship by working with local business and the wider community

Specific targets will be set for the new structures to deliver, including on:
·        Increasing the number of and 5-year survival of new start-ups
·        Increasing the number of start-ups by women
·        Increasing exports from microbusiness and small business
·        Increasing job-creation and innovation in the sector

The structure of the new service was laid out by the Government decision of early 2012, based on proposals developed by Minister Bruton and Minister Hogan. The consultation paper sets out further detail on the reform process and Ministers Bruton and Perry are keen to receive the opinions from the micro & small business sector across Ireland on how the changes to be brought about can best provide support to the right people, at the right time and at the right level. Views are also sought on the details of the implementation as well as any innovative ideas for better supports to the sector and better customer service delivery.

Responses to the consultation process will be considered by the Implementation Working Group, which will report to Minister Bruton after the end of the consultation process. Other measures due to be delivered in the coming months include:
·        Early December – establishment of Micro and Small Business Division in Enterprise Ireland to develop a Centre of Excellence
·        January 2013 – launch advance Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs)
·        April 2013 – establish all LEOs on an administrative basis
·        Summer 2013 – enact enabling legislation

Minister Bruton said:

“Micro and small businesses are the backbone of the Irish economy, and employ over a third of all people working in Ireland today. If we are going to create the jobs and growth we need we must provide better supports to this sector so that more of these businesses can start-up, grow, export, and create the jobs we need. That is why as part of the Action Plan for Jobs we have introduced a range of new measures aimed at micro and small businesses, including the €90million microfinance scheme and the €450million credit guarantee scheme.

“A key part of this plan is ensuring that micro and small businesses throughout the country have access to the best possible range of supports at all stages of their developments. That is why the Government decided earlier this year on a package of reforms which will ensure that this can be delivered, by creating a Centre of Excellence in Enterprise Ireland to develop best practice in small business support, and a network of Local Enterprise Offices in Local Authorities responsible for delivering these supports across the country.

“Today I am happy to announce that, after substantial work by my Department, Minister Hogan’s Department and all other stakeholders, I have secured Government approval to draft legislation to give effect to these changes. It is also important that all affected parties have the opportunity to have their voices heard on these changes, and I urge people to participate in the consultation process”.

Minister Perry said:

“As Minister for Small Business I am acutely aware, along with my Government colleagues, how important the small business sector is to Ireland and the country’s economic recovery.  Government does not create jobs, people and businesses do. The role of Government, and the centrepiece of our plan, is to make it easier for businesses to start-up, expand, succeed, and create jobs.

“This is why as part of the Action Plan for Jobs we are restructuring enterprise supports for the micro and small business sector and more closely aligning the services currently provided by the CEBs and Local Authorities.  The new Local Enterprise Offices will act as a first-stop-shop facility for small business at local level and will incorporate the successful CEB model of supporting enterprise, but will also allow the provision of an enhanced role by Enterprise Ireland and the Local Authorities for the wider small business sector.

“It is important that the Government hear directly from people in the small business sector and I would ask people to engage in this important consultative process.”