CALLS have been made to lend small businesses in South Gloucestershire a helping hand during the credit crunch.

Local councillors are demanding immediate action to aid struggling bosses in the economic downturn.

They want capital from South Gloucestershire Council’s project budget to be released to help ailing businesses.

Cllr Howard Gawler (Lib Dem, Ladden Brook), who is spearheading the motion, said: "It makes sense to reconsider our priorities in the current economic climate.

"I feel one of the important things is what we can do for the local community to help give an economic boost in these difficult times. "We have millions of pounds we have already allocated to projects, and activating them now will help keep people in jobs, and using services in the local economy."

He added: "It could be possible to condense the programme over a shorter period in order to provide stability and regularity of work for local businesses."

Cllr Gawler is due to bring up the issue at a meeting of full council on Wednesday and is hoping for cross-party support for a full reassessment of the authority’s public spending priorities.

His proposals include: * Make representations to government to allocate part of the proposed £20 billion guarantees for loans to South Gloucestershire businesses.

* Actions to keep public and private sector capital projects going * Income maximisation programmes for residents, including take up of benefits * Implementation of programmes for young people to gain work experience * Debt advice and assistance to residents and businesses, particularly for older people, including on fuel poverty Penny Baker, who opened the Blend café on Thornbury High Street during the spiralling financial crisis, is backing the appeal.

She said: "I'm sure many small and medium businesses would welcome any actions in order to encourage banks to make loan agreements to credit worthy businesses.

"I know from how hard any new business has to work to get started that even small actions of help or advice could make a big difference."

She added: "My husband Richard and I decided to go ahead with opening the new business despite the credit crunch as it was that or admit defeat from the start.

"It's been hard work but then starting anything new is always a challenge. I'm grateful to the people of Thornbury who've supported us with their custom."