The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe TD, is to bring proposals to Government over the coming weeks on the structure of the country’s network of 35 county enterprise boards (CEBs ).
Speaking this week, Minister O’Keeffe said it was timely to examine whether the CEB model is performing optimally.
: ‘The performance of the small business sector is an important contributor to the overall quality of life and standard of living in this country. ‘CEBs play a crucial role in supporting entrepreneurship and in supporting growth and productivity in micro-enterprise. ‘Their local focus and agile ability to respond quickly to local needs is a key aspect of the service which they provide to micro-enterprises.
‘I believe that dedicated State support for the micro-enterprise sector should continue to be provided and such support should be delivered as close to the client as possible. ‘In the context of the recommendations of the McCarthy Report and continuing pressures on the public finances and staffing resources, I am evaluating the appropriateness of the current structures of the 35 CEBs.
“‘In these difficult times, 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.’ He said the separate legal structures of the 35 independent CEBs present challenges in terms of staffing rigidities, resource maximisation, rigidities in responding to the impact of the recruitment embargo, and general corporate governance issues with consequential effects on standardisation of service provision across the networks.
‘Specifically, I am considering the extent to which the structure of CEBs inhibits, for example, the roll-out of centralised resources and reductions in costs arising from the requirement for separate auditing in achieving efficiencies in the recruitment of staff, a re-balancing in staff complements having regard to both the moratorium on staff numbers and client needs, and consistency in corporate governance across the 35 CEBs.
‘An examination of the role and structures of the CEB network brings into focus whether maintaining a network of 35 boards is ideal,’ said Minister O’Keeffe.
He pointed out that CEBs have played a pivotal role in stimulating local economic development, helping to create 30,726 jobs in CEB-supported firms between 1993 and 2009. ‘In addition, significant numbers of people were supported in various management training and capability development programmes.
‘Notwithstanding these successes, the time is now right for us to examine the model and ask whether it is fit for purpose in these challenging times. ‘I will bring proposals to Government on this before the summer break,’ said Minister O’Keeffe.