A £24,000 scheme has been launched to provide help to local businesses in Carlisle during the Covid-19 global pandemic.

The 'Buy Local Carlisle' project uses government funding allocated to Carlisle City Council through the Reopening High Streets Safety European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Working with local businesswoman, Michelle Masters to deliver the scheme, it will continue the ongoing free support made available through the established Small Business Support Group Carlisle on Facebook.

Set up by Michelle in May last year, the Facebook group already has over 3,700 members and promotes business to business support. The funding will also be used to provide business mentoring support and the development of a local business directory.

Michelle Masters said: “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. 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 and help from a qualified and experienced business advisor. The programme already has nearly 40 businesses apply in a few weeks.

“The second part is now live and is already proving popular, with over 100 businesses listing their business in a few hours. 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.”

Carlisle City councillor 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.”

• For more information on the mentoring programme, visit https://www.carlisleambassadors.co.uk/projects/business-support-programme/buy-local-mentor-application

• Businesses can join the Facebook Small Business Support Group Carlisle at https://www.facebook.com/groups/smallbusinesssupportcarlisle

• Membership for Carlisle Ambassadors is free until April this year. Find out more at https://www.carlisleambassadors.co.uk/membership/become-a-member