35 CCounty and City Enterprise Boards to be dissolved as part of reform programme

As part of a radical reform of the system of supports for micro and small enterprises, aimed at delivering a world-class service, the first-stop shop service will be delivered through a network of 31 LEOs across the country. Among the improved services delivered will be:
·        Mentoring programmes overseen by Enterprise Ireland
·        Training and management development programmes overseen by Enterprise Ireland
·        Pathway into the range of Enterprise Ireland supports for high-growth companies with ambitions to export
·        Advice on and access to a range of services from across Government, including Revenue, Credit Review Office, the Companies Registration Office
·        Companies with over 10 employees operating exclusively in the domestic market, which currently in most cases are not supported by the State, will be eligible for supports under the new system
·        Access to the range of support services – including planning and licensing – offered by the Business Support units of Local Authorities
·        Access to the various training services offered by SOLAS
·        Access to the Microfinance Ireland Loan Fund

As part of the reforms the County and City Enterprise Boards – 35 separate legal entities – will be dissolved. This initiative forms a key part of the Government’s programme of public service reform and agency rationalisation. Legislation to dissolve the CEBs is on the Government’s A List for the current Dáil session.

The LEOs will draw and build on the successful County Enterprise Board (CEB) model which supports 33,000 jobs across the country, and support 900 new projects per annum as well as approximately 25,000 training participants. However it will bring together for the first time in a structured and coherent manner the skills, experience and resources of Enterprise Ireland, the CEBs and the Local Authorities to micro and small businesses.

The Ministers today published a framework Service Level Agreement between Enterprise Ireland and the Local Authorities (link below). Enterprise Ireland will negotiate Service Level Agreements with all Local Authorities, which will set out budgets and project evaluation methods as well as a series of demanding metrics and targets for the delivery of services by the LEOs, including the numbers of jobs and businesses to be supported.




Minister Bruton said: “These reforms are about delivering improved supports, in a better location, to more businesses and ultimately create more jobs.

“Micro and small businesses are the engine of the Irish economy, employing over 650,000 people, and a key part of the Government’s plans for jobs and growth is ensuring that we deliver a truly world-class service for this sector. The County and City Enterprise Boards has been a very successful model, and what we are doing through these reforms is building on that success so that:
·        businesses employing more than 10 people operating in the domestic market which previously couldn’t access supports will now be targeted
·        Enterprise Ireland’s Centre of Excellence for Micro and Small Business will have a central role in setting policies for the LEOs, which reflect international best practice and ensuring, through a robust performance management system, that they are delivered
·        joined-up Government will ensure that the business support services currently provided by three separate bodies will now be brought together in one place where they will be easily accessible to business-people.

“A lot of hard work has been contributed by people on all sides to get us to this point today, and although challenges remain, I wish to commend the staff in the CEBs, in my own Department, in Enterprise Ireland, in Local Authorities and the Department of the Environment for their work in getting us to this point. I also wish to pay tribute to the political commitment of Minister Hogan and Minister Perry and the support of the wider business community. I am determined to ensure that with strong implementation of these reforms we can provide more supports to more start-up and small businesses and ultimately create the jobs we so badly need”.

Minister Hogan said: “Local authorities have a responsibility to provide local services to local people.  The location of CEBs in local authorities, together with the Business Support Units local authorities have been operating, allows local supports to be delivered to micro-enterprises in a more coherent and joined-up way.  Government has a commitment to delivering national recovery and economic development, and the role local authorities play in promoting this at local level is essential to the overall national effort.  The integration of key enterprise supports via local authorities that Minister Bruton is delivering here today is crucial to promoting local businesses and entrepreneurship.

“The use of the local authority system to deliver business supports via LEOs is very much part of the overall reform of local government.  We need a local government system that is more efficient and effective, more responsive and more representative, one that stronger and more cohesive, and that has the capacity to meet local needs and promote social, economic and community development in its widest sense.  This is what Government has asked me to deliver in the Action Programme for Effective Local Government and I am pleased that another step in the overall programme is being delivered here today.

“CEBs have had an impressive track record in job supports over their time in existence.  I am confident that LEOs, situated in the local authority structure, can build on and surpass this success.  It will be essential that local authorities are completely focused on maximising the effectiveness of local authorities in enterprise support and economic development.  I will maintain the partnership with Ministers Bruton and Perry to ensure local authorities step up to the mark, and that local authorities are supported as best they can be in the delivery of this important expansion in their role.”

Minister Perry said:

“Small businesses are a central part of the economy and their ability to succeed and grow underpins our future potential for jobs, growth and prosperity. 98.5% of all firms are small and employ over 650,000 people throughout the country. It is important therefore, that we continue to focus on delivering a practical programme of actions that can achieve positive improvements in the operating environment for small businesses.

“During the last two years, this Government has delivered a series of measures aimed at putting the best supports in place and creating the right business environment, so that indigenous companies can grow their businesses and help rebuild the economy.  Today we see our Programme for Government commitment, to reform the system for delivery of supports to small and micro businesses, come to fruition.

“The LEOs will allow local businesses access vital information, advice and guidance, including access to other State services with supports relevant to small business. I should stress, that by undertaking this reform process, it is not to suggest that the CEB model has been lacking over the last 19 years. On the contrary, the County Enterprise Boards have served the micro-enterprise sector excellently since 1993. However, since then there have been many changes to the social, economic and technological landscape of Ireland.

“The Centre of Excellence and the establishment of LEOs is a new model, designed to deliver a high quality, innovative, first-stop shop support service for small businesses across the country.

“Ensuring more micro and small businesses can start up, expand and succeed is a key part of our plan for job creation and growth. That is why the Government has decided to implement an ambitious reform in the delivery of services to small and microbusinesses.  I look forward to working with Minister Bruton and Minister Hogan, to ensure that the national enterprise support model delivers enhanced tailored supports to the indigenous micro-enterprise and small business sectors.”


Legislation to abolish the County and City Enterprise Boards and establish the new system is currently being drafted by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. It is contained within Section A of the Government’s Legislative Programme for the summer session.

The LEO will deliver tailored supports to the micro and small business sector to the highest standards, benchmarked by Enterprise Ireland through its Centre of Excellence and delivered in partnership with the Local Authorities. Support to micro and small business transcends beyond grant aid and financial support – it is also about making the operating environment at local level conducive and responsive to entrepreneurship and enterprise growth and development. Local Authorities have great potential to be a vibrant partner for the development of micro and small business – they are already very innovative in providing space for start-ups, opening up procurement opportunities, supporting the marketing of local producers, offering incentives, streamlining access to planning and licensing. Going forward the LEO will provide the impetus for Local Authorities to deepen and embed the culture of “think small business first” into their work and the broader services that they provide.

The current role of the County and City Enterprise Boards (CEBs) is to support the micro-enterprise sector (i.e. businesses with 10 employees or less) in the start-up and expansion phases. The CEBs are the principal deliverers of State support to the micro-enterprise sector in Ireland and they provide targeted supports – both financial and non-financial – to the micro-enterprise sector to enable businesses in that sector to not alone survive the economic downturn but to grow and to create sustainable employment within their local area. Currently, there are 35 CEBs who are all separate legal entities with their own Boards and Chief Executive Officers.

Enterprise Ireland’s remit covers the stimulation and development of start-ups that have the potential to employ more than 10 people and to achieve €1 million in exports. Such start-ups are typically highly innovative and are in a position to sell globally from their earliest stage. Enterprise Ireland also provides tailored support for established Irish companies focussed on growth in international markets.

The Local Authorities play an important role in supporting economic development and enterprise promotion at local level through economic planning and development and the provision of local services and infrastructure. Their Business Support Units act as a point of contact for businesses in relation to obtaining information on, and access to, the range of local services provided by a Local Authority such as water, waste, infrastructure etc. and also on matters such as planning, building, business rates, licensing etc. Some Business Development Units also provide more general enterprise support functions and have a good working relationship with the CEBs in their locality.

The Government Decision of April 2012 provides for the dissolution of the 35 CEBs as separate legal entities and the transfer of their functions to Enterprise Ireland. These functions will be delivered at local level on behalf of Enterprise Ireland by a network of Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs). These LEOs will not have any separate individual legal standing but will be business units within a Local Authority reporting ultimately to the County Manager as with other Units within a Local Authority. The LEO will be staffed by the combined resources of the staff of the former CEB and the staff of the Business Support Unit of the Local Authority. The staff of the former CEB will work in the LEO for a minimum period of three years in order that their particular enterprise skills and competencies be utilised to preserve and embed a culture of enterprise in the new structure.

Under the terms of the Service Level Agreement Enterprise Ireland will have a significant oversight role in the activities of the LEO and, through its Centre of Excellence, Enterprise Ireland will ensure the appropriate matching and linking of national policy and programmes with local policies and programmes.

The Centre of Excellence will also carry out the following functions;

·        Review and Benchmarking of the services and supports available from each LEO to promote best practice across the network
·        Development of standardised financial and non-financial support instruments
·        Work in conjunction with LEOs to design and deliver appropriate national training and management development programmes at local level including a common approach to mentoring
·        Develop and maintain a National Website designed specifically for micro-enterprise incorporating online self-assessment tools, signposting to other State services, benchmarking, how-to guides etc.
·        LEO Staff will receive training organised by the Centre of Excellence
·        Carry out audit and spot checks of expenditure including Evaluation and Approvals Committee approvals
·        Management of Metrics and Targets for each LEO
·        Research of International Best Practice in micro-enterprise support
·        Measurement monitoring of customer/entrepreneur experience/satisfaction
·        Management of the client transfer mechanism from LEO to EI portfolio
·        Development and roll out  of various competitive funds

The types of LEO Metrics and Targets which have been developed for each LEO include;

·        Sustain and Increase Employment of Client companies: Number of jobs sustained and increased in client companies
·        Number of Start Ups Supported (Financial/Non-Financial Support)
·        Financial supports provided – Number of feasibility grants approved, number of priming grants approved, number of expansion grants approved
·        Number of joint initiatives run with other LEOs
·        Number of national approved training initiatives run e.g. SYOB, Accelerate
·        Economic Impact (as defined by increases in sales, exports, employment and economic expenditure) only related to Forfás accepted client recognition methodology. Annual uniform client data collection to be introduced.
·        Number of clients transferred to Enterprise Ireland and vice versa with clear protocols established and proactively utilised.
·        No. of business plans assessed
·        Number of LEO Clients availing of EI Services such as Innovation Vouchers.
·        No. of Micro-Finance/Loan guarantee applications assessed and recommended to MFI.
·        No. of job approvals/commitments
·        Cost per job following grant approval (uniform methodology and process to be agreed).

The types of Local Authority Metrics and Targets (complementary to the LEO targets) which have been developed include;

·        Business Information and Advice:
Ø        Number of LA-led business information sessions advising on Public Procurement Procedures (and number of participants)
Ø        Number of business users fora for public sector to engage with local business (and number of participants) – to include advice and information on energy efficiency, waste management,  planning & sustainable development

·        Entrepreneurship Support Services:
Ø        Number of economic promotion events / enterprise initiatives by local authority; to include promotional material, online promotion, publications, DVDs, seminars and conferences
·        Enterprise Support Services:
Ø        Number of businesses availing of Rates Payment Plans (and associated employment)
Ø        Number of networks or collaborative structures supported which focus on entrepreneurship, economic development, employment generation and support, or addressing job losses (at local, regional, national or international level)

·        Local Enterprise Development Services: Enterprise Infrastructure:
Ø        New investment in enterprise facilities/services for entrepreneurs/information resources
Ø        Number of incubation/innovation centres, community enterprise centres, business parks maintained (to include joint investment/match funding with EI/IDA/community/business)
Ø        Number of initiatives to support key infrastructures such as broadband, further education/training, tourism, culture/heritage
Ø        Amount of zoned land (ha.) for business / employment / commercial / industrial uses

·        Labour Market Activation:
Ø        Number of placements completed p.a. under all Labour Activation programmes