Dáil Éireann - Volume 589 - 07 October, 2004

Written Answers. - County Enterprise Boards.

  22. Mr. Naughten asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the plans he has to review the eligibility criteria for funding from county enterprise boards; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23461/04]

  Mr. Martin: Within the past 12 months my Department, through Forfás, commissioned a review of the role and functions of the CEBs in the development of micro-enterprises. Fitzpatricks Associates conducted this review and it involved consultations with all relevant interested parties. The review represents the most comprehensive examination of the role and functions of the CEBs since their inception over ten years ago. The review was considered appropriate against the background of the major economic changes that have taken place in Ireland over that period.

The review largely endorsed the activities and operations of the CEBs. It concluded that there is justification for continued State support to micro-enterprises and that the CEB network can continue to play a useful role in the overall national enterprise development policy. The review recommended that, in providing assistance to micro-enterprises, CEBs should focus more on economic, rather than social or local development, objectives; that there should be a renewed focus on the core enterprise mission; that the [1605] issues of potential dead-weight, displacement and duplication should be more systematically and rigorously addressed; and that there should be a move away from grants to repayable finance as well as to soft supports.

In addition, as funding for the CEBs is provided by the Exchequer, through the National Development Plan, 2000-2006, support for the development of micro-enterprise as offered by the CEBs must operate within the parameters laid down in the relevant operational programmes of the national development plan, NDP.

The current NDP specifically states that there will be a progressive shift, over the lifetime of this NDP, from providing direct financial assistance to other non-financial supports such as advice, mentoring and management development. As a result, where finance is provided, this is increasingly in the form of equity and refundable grants. In addition, the CEBs will continue to give priority to manufacturing and internationally traded services companies, which over time may develop into strong export entities.