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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 4 May 1995

Vol. 452 No. 4

Written Answers. - County Enterprise Boards.

Liz O'Donnell


30 Ms O'Donnell asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he will ensure that the assistance given by county enterprise boards to small companies is given by way of low cost loans rather than grant aid, to ensure that small companies reach their full potential for job creation in order to maximise the benefit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8105/95]

The county enterprise boards have been operating on an informal interim basis since they were set up in late 1993. Their activities to date have been confined to the provision of grants and advice for small businesses starting up or expanding.

In the absence of specific legislative authority, I am not empowered to permit the county enterprise boards to issue loans from the public funds made available to them through my Department's Vote. I also regret that in the course of the negotiations on the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development last year, the European Commission declined to support the Irish Government's proposal that co-financed funding support be made available to enable the county enterprise boards to issue loans as an alternative to grant support for small firms. I intend to seek to rectify the position in relation to the scope of financial assistance which the boards can make available.
The boards are at present being established as companies limited by guarantee. The incorporation of the boards will be followed by the signing of an operating agreement between my Department and each board setting out the guidelines under which the boards will operate as autonomous local development bodies. I also intend to include provision in forthcoming legislation which will put the operations of the county enterprise boards on a statutory footing.
I am confident that the effect of the incorporation of the boards, the signing of the operating agreements and the enactment of the legislation will be to provide a wider and more independent remit for the boards and to assist them in supporting new small enterprises to reach their full potential.