I propose to take Questions Nos. 7 and 22 together.
I am at present examining proposals for a differentiated apportionment between the 35 county enterprise boards of the funding provided for the overall initiative. A final decision on the allocation for each board in 1996 will be communicated to the boards as soon as possible. I am satisfied that the budgetary provision of £19.736 million for county enterprise boards in 1996 will enable them to achieve the broad targets set for the initiative in the Operational Programme for Local Urban and Rural Development 1994-99, under which the boards are supported by EU funding. The planned investment by both the State and the EU under the Operational Programme for this initiative amounts to over IR£81 million for the period 1995 to 1999.
Having regard to the need for a balanced programme of grant approval activity to be undertaken by boards throughout the course of the year, I have allocated provisional grant approval capacity of £180,000 to every board for the first six months of this year. Approval of grants is now a matter of day-to-day responsibility for each county enterprise board and the phasing of the grant assistance they can make available over the course of the calendar year is a sensible means of scheduling their activity and prioritising projects in accordance with their enterprise plans. In this context, the boards were advised, as in previous years, to prioritise projects in accordance with their enterprise plans. A balance must be struck between addressing the pressing claims of projects already on hands and retaining some flexibility to cope with anticipated demand at later stages in the year.
The funding which will be provided to the boards in 1996 will ensure that they can continue to promote small business development and job creation with the commitment which they have displayed thus far. However, there will always be more projects than there are public funds available to support them. Boards will have to priorities their choices, selecting only those development projects which but for this initiative would not otherwise have been able to get off the ground and using their limited resources to leverage additional funding from other sources, including the private sector.