€200k start-up scheme at core of jobs plan for South-east

THE recession-ravaged South-east will see a €200,000 start-up scheme at the heart of a jobs plan for the area to be revealed next week.

The region was left reeling by the sudden withdrawal of big name employers such as TalkTalk and Aviva and has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.

Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton is expected to launch the fund in a bid to encourage start-up companies, which can compete for up to €20,000 each.

The money will be allocated by Enterprise Ireland and should be available from the end of next month.

The IDA is also expected to push more of its resources into job-creation projects across the South-east after the Government was criticised for not acting swiftly enough after TalkTalk’s decision in September to shed 575 jobs.

The unemployment rate in the region is 18.2%, compared to 14% as a national average. Business leaders have complained about a lack of urgency in dealing with the jobs crisis by the current and the previous government.

Independent Waterford TD John Halligan dismissed the start-up initiative as too little, too late.

“Official figures show that every unemployed person costs the economy €30,000 to €35,000 a year in benefit payments and lost spending power, so it is just disastrous to keep people on the dole like this.

“The Government should be sponsoring jobs, not tinkering around with a start-up scheme that is wholly inadequate.

“More than 1,100 small business employing between two and 10 people have been allowed to go to the wall — they are the ones that need help and need it urgently.

“This kind of stuff is just window dressing and lacks the drive and resources we need to turn the situation around in the South-east,” he said.

Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath also criticised Government efforts in the region.

“I think this package sounds like it will be derisory at best. Growth is the only way we will get out of this situation and you can’t have growth without job creation,” he said.

When TalkTalk announced its decision, Mr Bruton was criticised for not setting up a regional task force, as happened in Limerick after major Dell job losses. But Mr Bruton said he would consult before making any long-term decisions.

Agencies under his control — such as the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland and county and city enterprise boards — have been developing proposals to target job-creation measures, sources say.

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