Ministers showcase Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) and announce details of improved new service for micro and small enterprises


The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, and the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD, together with the Minister of State for Small Business John Perry TD today showcased a Local Enterprise Office (LEO) in Fingal County Council, and announced details of the improved new support service for micro and small enterprises to be provided.

As part of a radical reform of the system of supports for micro and small enterprises, aimed at delivering a world-class service, the first-stop shop service will be delivered through a network of 31 LEOs across the country. Among the improved services delivered will be:
·        Mentoring programmes overseen by Enterprise Ireland
·        Training and management development programmes overseen by Enterprise Ireland
·        Pathway into the range of Enterprise Ireland supports for high-growth companies with ambitions to export
·        Advice on and access to a range of services from across Government, including Revenue, Credit Review Office, the Companies Registration Office
·        Companies with over 10 employees operating exclusively in the domestic market, which currently in most cases are not supported by the State, will be eligible for supports under the new system
·        Access to the range of support services – including planning and licensing – offered by the Business Support units of Local Authorities
·        Access to the various training services offered by SOLAS
·        Access to the Microfinance Ireland Loan Fund

As part of the reforms the County and City Enterprise Boards – 35 separate legal entities – will be dissolved. This initiative forms a key part of the Government’s programme of public service reform and agency rationalisation. Legislation to dissolve the CEBs is on the Government’s A List for the current Dáil session.

The LEOs will draw and build on the successful County Enterprise Board (CEB) model which supports 33,000 jobs across the country, and support 900 new projects per annum as well as approximately 25,000 training participants. However it will bring together for the first time in a structured and coherent manner the skills, experience and resources of Enterprise Ireland, the CEBs and the Local Authorities to micro and small businesses.

The Ministers today published a framework Service Level Agreement between Enterprise Ireland and the Local Authorities (link below). Enterprise Ireland will negotiate Service Level Agreements with all Local Authorities, which will set out budgets and project evaluation methods as well as a series of demanding metrics and targets for the delivery of services by the LEOs, including the numbers of jobs and businesses to be supported.

Minister Bruton said: “These reforms are about delivering improved supports, in a better location, to more businesses and ultimately create more jobs.

“Micro and small businesses are the engine of the Irish economy, employing over 650,000 people, and a key part of the Government’s plans for jobs and growth is ensuring that we deliver a truly world-class service for this sector. The County and City Enterprise Boards has been a very successful model, and what we are doing through these reforms is building on that success so that:
·        businesses employing more than 10 people operating in the domestic market which previously couldn’t access supports will now be targeted
·        Enterprise Ireland’s Centre of Excellence for Micro and Small Business will have a central role in setting policies for the LEOs, which reflect international best practice and ensuring, through a robust performance management system, that they are delivered
·        joined-up Government will ensure that the business support services currently provided by three separate bodies will now be brought together in one place where they will be easily accessible to business-people.

“A lot of hard work has been contributed by people on all sides to get us to this point today, and although challenges remain, I wish to commend the staff in the CEBs, in my own Department, in Enterprise Ireland, in Local Authorities and the Department of the Environment for their work in getting us to this point. I also wish to pay tribute to the political commitment of Minister Hogan and Minister Perry and the support of the wider business community. I am determined to ensure that with strong implementation of these reforms we can provide more supports to more start-up and small businesses and ultimately create the jobs we so badly need”.

Minister Hogan said: “Local authorities have a responsibility to provide local services to local people.  The location of CEBs in local authorities, together with the Business Support Units local authorities have been operating, allows local supports to be delivered to micro-enterprises in a more coherent and joined-up way.  Government has a commitment to delivering national recovery and economic development, and the role local authorities play in promoting this at local level is essential to the overall national effort.  The integration of key enterprise supports via local authorities that Minister Bruton is delivering here today is crucial to promoting local businesses and entrepreneurship.

“The use of the local authority system to deliver business supports via LEOs is very much part of the overall reform of local government.  We need a local government system that is more efficient and effective, more responsive and more representative, one that stronger and more cohesive, and that has the capacity to meet local needs and promote social, economic and community development in its widest sense.  This is what Government has asked me to deliver in the Action Programme for Effective Local Government and I am pleased that another step in the overall programme is being delivered here today.

“CEBs have had an impressive track record in job supports over their time in existence.  I am confident that LEOs, situated inthe local authority structure, can build on and surpass this success.  It will be essential that local authorities are completely focused on maximising the effectiveness of local authorities in enterprise support and economic development.  I will maintain the partnership with Ministers Bruton and Perry to ensure local authorities step up to the mark, and that local authorities are supported as best they can be in the delivery of this important expansion in their role.”

Minister Perry said:

“Small businesses are a central part of the economy and their ability to succeed and grow underpins our future potential for jobs, growth and prosperity. 98.5% of all firms are small and employ over 650,000 people throughout the country. It is important therefore, that we continue to focus on delivering a practical programme of actions that can achieve positive improvements in the operating environment for small businesses.

“During the last two years, this Government has delivered a series of measures aimed at putting the best supports in place and creating the right business environment, so that indigenous companies can grow their businesses and help rebuild the economy.  Today we see our Programme for Government commitment, to reform the system for delivery of supports to small and micro businesses, come to fruition.

“The LEOs will allow local businesses access vital information, advice and guidance, including access to other State services with supports relevant to small business. I should stress, that by undertaking this reform process, it is not to suggest that the CEB model has been lacking over the last 19 years. On the contrary, the County Enterprise Boards have served the micro-enterprise sector excellently since 1993. However, since then there have been many changes to the social, economic and technological landscape of Ireland.

“The Centre of Excellence and the establishment of LEOs is a new model, designed to deliver a high quality, innovative, first-stop shop support service for small businesses across the country.

“Ensuring more micro and small businesses can start up, expand and succeed is a key part of our plan for job creation and growth. That is why the Government has decided to implement an ambitious reform in the delivery of services to small and microbusinesses.  I look forward to working with Minister Bruton and Minister Hogan, to ensure that the national enterprise support model delivers enhanced tailored supports to the indigenous micro-enterprise and small business sectors.”

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