As the Deputy is aware, my Department, along with the Department of Rural and Community Development are responsible for fulfilling the Programme for Government commitment to "thoroughly investigate the German Sparkassen model for the development of local public banks that operate within well-defined regions".
Local public banking is where a State, or other public body, has ownership of a financial institution. The German local public banks, known as Sparkassen, are not permitted to operate beyond specific geographic regions in which they are located. The business model of Sparkassen is not to maximise profits, but rather promote economic development and financial inclusion in the particular region in which they operate. Another important element of this business model is that Sparkassen work closely with local SMEs in their area.
The investigation of local public banking has consisted of a consultation process, engaging with stakeholders and interested parties. This consultation process was carried out last year by the Department of Rural and Community Development, assisted by the Department of Finance.
As well as the public consultation process, there has also been detailed analysis of a proposal for a potential model of local public banking in Ireland, based on the German Sparkassen model. This proposal was put forward by Irish Rural Link and the Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation (SBFIC), the international development wing of the Sparkassen group. There has been considerable engagement between officials in both Departments and representatives from Irish Rural Link and SBFIC.
Officials in my Department and the Department of Community and Rural Development have been working closely together and they have now completed the report on the findings of their analysis of the Sparkassen local public banking model in Ireland. Along with my colleague, Minister Ring, I expect to be in a position to bring this joint Report on the local public banking to Government for approval in the coming weeks.
Once the Report has been approved by Government, it is anticipated that it will then be published.
The Deputy may also be interested to know that there are already significant Government measures in place to support access to finance by Irish SMEs. These include the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI), the Supporting SMEs Online Tool, the Microenterprise Loan Fund, Local Enterprise Offices, the Credit Review Office and the Credit and Counter Guarantee Schemes.
Additionally, my Department is working with other Government departments to develop tailored and innovative schemes to meet the evolving needs of Irish SMEs, such as the Agricultural Cashflow Support Loan Scheme and the Brexit Loan Scheme I announced in Budgets 2017 and 2018 respectively.