Rural construction firms affected by the foot-and-mouth epidemic could get up to £15,000 each from the government.
he rural businesses recovery fund yesterday, taking the total to £50m.

Although the money is mainly to be targeted at firms in the tourist industry, environment minister Michael Meacher said "other country businesses" – which could include rural construction firms – could apply.

The money is to be distributed to up to 10,000 businesses by regional development agencies.

It will be particularly targeted at the areas worst affected by foot and mouth: Devon, Cumbria and parts of the Welsh borders.

The final criteria for funding are being drawn up at the moment by RDAs, but businesses that turn over less than £250,000 a year are likely to be favoured.

Grants will be given to help with loan payments, invest in new skills, IT and marketing and for business advice and rural regeneration projects.

Building called for rural builders to be given aid after highlighting the crippling effects that foot and mouth has had on Cumbrian building businesses.

The Federation of Master Builders is also calling for financial relief for the building industry. It is renewing its calls for VAT on building work to be reduced to 5%.