A NEW £24,000 scheme has been launched in Carlisle, aiming to support local businesses facing continued pressures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The "Buy Local Carlisle" scheme will be delivered in partnership between Carlisle City Council and local businesswoman Michelle Masters, who has provided valuable support to Carlisle area businesses via the Small Business Support Carlisle group, which has operated on Facebook since May last year.

The group currently has more than 3,700 members, and promotes business to business support for firms in the Carlisle area.

The funding for the scheme has been provided by Carlisle City Council, and was originally sourced through the Reopening High Streets Safety European Regional Development Fund.

The funding will be used to provide business mentoring support, as well as the development of a local business directory.

Michelle explained that she was not expecting the group to be as successful as it has already proven to be.

"When I set up the Facebook group, I thought maybe a few hundred would join, not realising the impact and help it would have for local businesses," she said.

"The feedback from the group has been amazing, businesses now see the group as a lifeline to help promote their business, speak to like-minded businesses, get information, help and share best practice.

"With the help of Carlisle City Council and the government we have managed to secure funding and 'Buy Local Carlisle' is now live."

"Buy Local Carlisle' is split into two parts, the first part went live before Christmas and consists of three hours of business support/help from a qualified and experienced business advisor.

"The programme already has had nearly 40 businesses apply in a few weeks.

"The second part will go live in the next few weeks and include a new dedicated website and business directory.

"It's so important that we work together through these difficult times and one way is for us to 'buy local'.

"Hopefully, the new website, the mentoring and the Facebook group will help raise the profile of local businesses at a time when they need it most."

Paul Nedved, portfolio holder for economy, enterprise and housing, added: "We want to do all we can to help local businesses.

"The ERDF grant will help develop further established support for those needing it during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

"This will include mentoring, the development of a business directory and website. "I'd urge businesses to get involved and be part of Buy Local Carlisle."