Ihe Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, has called on the Government to reverse its decision to place Laois and other county and city Enterprise Boards (CEBs) under the control of Laois County Council and other local authorities.
At a time when entrepreneurs need all the assistance they can get, ISME say the government is upsetting the whole infrastructure, people, advisors, management; creating mini-turf wars in the boards and uncertainty among the clients.
The Association has demanded that any changes to the CEB network structure must keep the needs of the client at the core of any such deliberations and, in that context, a locally-based, flexible, client-focused system under the control of ENTERPRISE will undoubtedly have most merit.
Commenting on the move ISME CEO Mark Fielding said:
“It is absolute madness the way they are doing it. They are cutting the 35 organisations that are actually making a difference to micro-businesses in Ireland.
“I’d be very fearful of the boards operating under the wing of the local authorities, as they do not have the ethos or experience of dealing with small business.
“At the moment, the boards are independent and flexible and there is a real chance this will be lost.
“We welcome the potential reduction in overheads, only if that money is ploughed back into supports for local business and not put into central coffers to fix potholes. Another worry is what happens where a business owes money in local authority rates and is then receiving a grant or financial assistance. Will the authority try to grab the finance or just make it more awkward for them?”
ISME claim the announcement has sparked concern and confusion among many micro businesses.
There has been no mention of changes in the range of services that CEBs provide by way of business supports and the budget line available. As yet there is very little detail on matters such as reporting responsibilities, levels of autonomy, advisory structures and staffing levels.
ISME say it has not seen a cost/benefit analysis or savings breakdown.
“In one fell swoop, this Government is interfering with the organisations that are actually making a difference to micro-businesses. The CEBs were always the first place of call for new entrants, where they received initial encouragement and support. I’d be very fearful of the boards operating under the wing of the local authorities, because they do not have the ethos or experience of dealing with small business. This move has the potential to set Irish entrepreneurship back decades and should be resisted,” continued Fielding.
“Small and micro businesses will become the casualties of the turf-war between ministers Hogan and Bruton. The sad fact is that this move will strip away the seed bed for entrepreneurship from the relevant department and shoehorn it in under Environment. Placing the support services for micro business under the Department of Environment and Local Authorities is a wrong move, it will stunt growth, it will delay revival and it will set back entrepreneurship by decades,” concluded Fielding.