Local enterprise offices to ‘breathe new life’ into economy
Eamon Gilmore says 2014 to be the ‘most important year in our path to recovery’
Taoiseach Enda Kenny (c), Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, and Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton attended an Action Plan for Jobs press conference at Government Buildings today. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.
The Government has announced that its new network of local enterprise offices will be up and running by April this year with an additional €3.5 million in funding and a new entrepreneurial fund aimed at under 25s.
The new offices, known as LEOs, will replace County Enterprise Boards and there will be 31 across the State located in local authority offices. They will do the same work as the enterprise boards but take on extra functions within the local authorities.
The initiative was announced by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton at a media conference today following a special Cabinet meeting which focused on employment policy.
The LEOs will continue to provide grants, offer mentoring and training as happened with enterprise boards but will also utilise the business supports and assistance provided by councils.
Unveiling the new scheme, the Taoiseach said it would “breathe new life” into many sectors of the economy and that small business will be able to walk into their local council offices from now and get the supports they require.
“It a real reform of local government and a devolution of power [from central Government],” he said.
Mr Kenny also disclosed that there will be another special Cabinet meeting before the end of this month that will be devoted to the construction sector, development and property financing. One of its purposes will be to ascertain why there have delays in some major capital projects using public funds.
He said the Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin would provide a list of all major capital projects that have been approved but on which work has not moved at a sufficient pace.
He said the taxpayer had put money into these projects but for one reason or another they had not moved at the required pace.
Mr Gilmore said 2014 was going to be the “most important year in our path to recovery” and said the Government would now drive forward with the creation of jobs. He said there had been some impressive statistics for 2013, not least the fact that 58,000 jobs had been created.
He said one area with potential for growth was residential construction and that an increase in the building of new homes in 2014 could potentially create 12,000 jobs.
Mr Bruton said the Action Plan for Jobs was now two years in existence and “delivering real change.”
He said among the major gains were the increase in the numbers of young people with ICT skills, and the doubling of trade missions, which he said was key as export would be the driving force of change. The sentiments were echoed by Mr Gilmore.
Some 120 of the 140 measures targeted for the last quarter of 2013 in the Action Plan were met, giving an 86 per cent success rate, the least successful return since the plan began.
Mr Bruton explained that some of the measures were held up because the legislative process had been slower than anticipated.
“If I came in here and said we had a 100 per cent success rate you would say that is just spin,” he said. “The [departments and agencies] are stretched by the targets. Every one is scrutinised,” he said.