(Written by Tony McDonough for The Liverpool Echo)

A £1m fund to help small businesses in the St Helens area has allocated its first 50 grants.

The Business Grant Fund, provided by St Helens Council, offers grants to both start-ups and established businesses and can provide between £500 and £10,000 to assist small to medium-sized firms expand and create jobs.

To date, 50 local companies have benefited from more than £125,000 of grant funding for a wide range of business development projects, helping to support the creation of 72 new jobs in the borough.

One of the companies to have benefitted is Newton le Willows-based Newton Vehicle Services, which was awarded a £3,865 grant towards the costs of new ramp equipment for its commercial vehicle centre.

Based across two sites, the company employs 11 people specialising in servicing and repairs for both domestic and large commercial vehicles.

Managing director, Peter Walls, said: “This investment has been crucial to helping me grow the business and has allowed us to create work for a new apprentice mechanic.

“We had lots of help from St Helens Chamber with the application process, which was more than worth the effort for what we got back in return.”

The Grant Fund is managed by St Helens Chamber and all applications for funding are approved by an independent investment panel.

Tracy Mawson, director of business services at the Chamber, said: “Supporting businesses to expand and create jobs is essential to growing the local economy, so being able offer grant funding and support to access business finance, has been a huge boost.”

For more information about business grants available through St Helens Chamber visit www.sthelenschamber.com/business_grants.

For information on help with a new business call Tracey Rigby 01744 742082 or for established businesses looking for assistance call Ian Fletcher on 01744 742108.