Driving Change in Dublin’s Job Creation Strategy

Tonight we have discussed issues, from local authority charges, to the control of our waste collection service and while all of those issues impact our lives, there is one issue which has such a fundamental effect on our lives that it unites all parties and all political philosophies.

The creation of jobs, the ability to give citizens of this republic the dignity of work, financial independence, a place in which they can exercise their physical and intellectual capacity. It is that goal, the creation of employment opportunities that I believe is our primary function as policy makers.

Much of the economic success in the past 15 years was built on the desire of our party to create jobs. Unlocking the potential of the Irish economy, enticing foreign companies to invest here and supporting indigenous small firms, were not policies based on a slavish view of the market as king, but instead on the view that providing work was the best social instrument to improve peoples lives.

The absence of those employment opportunities, hammers home, to me, the principle that driving economic development is as important now as it was at the height of the Celtic tiger.

It may surprise you but Ireland is currently in an export boom. According to Frank Ryan CEO of Enterprise Ireland, exports this year will hit levels not seen since 2008. This does not happen by accident and as the new government have discovered it does not happen by issuing press releases either.

But despite these promising figures, we still have an unacceptable level of unemployment.

Dublin is seen by many as the engine of any potential economic recovery and yet our current policy framework leaves the job of creating economic activity in the capital to no one agency or body and thus it is a job which falls between the cracks. Like many issues there is a disconnect at the implementation phase. The difficulty with economic policy for the greater Dublin region lies in the weak and disconnected local government structure which we inherited from the British Empire

And remember Dublin is not just the City it is the City Region encompassing 5 counties competiting not with Cork or Galway but instead with other international city regions like Liverpool and Barcelona.

Tonight I put forward the thesis the we need to combine the economic development role of the local area based partnerships, the knowledge of the city’s enterprise boards and the policy making function of the local authority and give the City Council the responsibility and accountability for creating employment in the targeted areas which we have set out in the city development plan.

It is a reformed local government in partnership with the enterprise boards structure which should take up that leadership role and it is for the new government to put their money where their promises have been, so that we can resource and target economic development in parts of our city which need them most.

An empowered Dublin City Council could provide that geographic policy focus and at the same time link with national agencies to improve the environment where foreign direct Investment and other Irish based jobs might be created.

The absence of a retail focused job creations strategy is an obvious example of where our current system lets us down. The state agencies have no strong remit to support retail businesses, shops which could fill the empty units across the city. The local shop keeper is too small to be supported by one organisation, to generic to be supported by another and the current rates regime controlled so closely by the department of finance does noting to encourage new shops to take up empty units in the city’s villages

We need an immediate change in rates legislation which would give local authorities the power to incentivise people to take up leases in empty units. If a shop unit is empty, the council must provide a 50% discount to the landlord, but if that unit is filled they have no power to provide the same discount in the first year, to those who take up a lease, even though that help could secure the council’s income in years to come.

Fine Gael and Labour are proposing a 2% reduction in commercial rates in the city, ‘more headline grabbing stuff’. But for a trader in main street Finglas that reduction could amount to nothing more than €60 a year. Where as larger businesses with a €1million euro rates bill will see a reduction of €20,000. We should be supporting small and new business and it is time that the blunt instrument of commercial rates is reformed so that jobs can be created.

As my colleague Niall Collins TD has said;

Rather than helping business the government is hindering it with damaging measures. At a moment when businesses need support the new government is considering a new “sick leave tax” on employers and a damaging 2% VAT increase that will drive shoppers up North and suppress demand.

And yet in the summer they told us that a reduction of VAT and Employers PRSI was the secret to job creation. Enda and Eamon, make up your minds. The ideological battle between your parties is not providing a stable environment where business can plan. Plan so that they can create jobs.

There is a sharp disconnect between the rhetoric of the government manifestos in February and their flip flop actions ever since.

We need to support the work of the Dublin Enterprise boards rather than subsuming them into a national agency as the government is rumoured to be planning.

We need to increase funding for networking and mentoring supports which enterprise boards have seen an exceptional increase in demands.

We need to immediately resolve the anomaly which means those people who are self employed have no certainty of a social welfare payment should their business fail. It is a disincentive to entrepreneurs and has gone on for too long.

As an elected representative for Ballymun and Finglas I have seen and know the devastation which area wide unemployment can have. It eats away at the social fabric and it tears down the hopes and ambitions of those young people whom we want to provide equality of opportunity. With 33% of those between 20 and 24 now unemployed the new government must act and act quickly. It is unacceptable that that figure could rise to Spanish levels of 42%.

 

Job creation versus job displacement

In a time of slower economic growth the net creation of new jobs must be the target. However when in order to create that principle of equality of opportunity sometimes job displacement may be a desirable outcome too. If we are to improve the lives of people in working class areas of Dublin, improve the opportunities they have and in-turn the opportunities which they can give their children, we need targeted and focused economic development.

We need to recognise those large areas of the city were disadvantage is a reality and then with the IDA target them for employment related investment not solely from knowledge based companies but also from manufacturing and industrial business.

The competing rights of different geographic and demographic areas is always the balancing act which we as politicians face but let me declare an interest; as a republican my bias will always be to provide the opportunity to those who have-not, rather than enhance the opportunities of those who already have.