BISHOP Auckland MP Helen Goodman has launched a new scheme to give small businesses a boost in the constituency.

Ms Goodman invited the card processing company, Square, to a business breakfast event in Shildon to launch the scheme on Small Business Saturday.

As part of the initiative, Square are offering businesses in Barnard Castle, Bishop Auckland, Shildon and Spennymoor free card-reading equipment, along with £1,000 in fee-free card processing to get them up and running with cashless payments.

Businesses who sign up will be able to begin accepting contactless, chip and PIN, telephone and mobile payments, without the need for a fixed-term contract or a monthly fee.

The scheme is open to businesses or individuals with a DL2, DL4, DL11, DL12, DL13, DL14, or DL16 postcode.

Ms Goodman said: “The Square scheme offers a much-needed boost to businesses in the area. Promotional events such as Small Business Saturday are brilliant for raising the profile of our independent shops, but we also need to bring in long-term solutions to help our businesses thrive.

“With banks vanishing from our high streets, and fewer shoppers carrying cash, it’s so important that our local businesses are equipped and supported to accept a wider range of payment types. This is why I have invited Square to the constituency. Unlike other companies, Square don’t charge monthly fees or ask customers to commit to long-term contracts, which many small-business owners have told me is a barrier to going digital.”

Business owners who attended the breakfast event in Shildon said they are enthusiastic for the project.

Joanne Iceton, founding director of community interest company, Little Chefs Big Chefs, hopes to use Square to manage payments for a future project.

She said: “As a small charitable business, I need to keep overheads to a minimum. The opportunity to take up this fantastic initiative which charges less than PayPal was too good to refuse.”

Alison Curry, director of Dispel, a Bishop Auckland-based company who offer creative educational workshops, added: “Square will be very beneficial to my business as it gives people attending my workshops an additional way of paying, often busy parents have very little cash on them or are juggling small children - a quick 'tap' and it's sorted.”

Helen Prowse, head of communications at Square, the company was proud to be working with Ms Goodman.

She said: "We're proud to be partnering with Helen Goodman MP to bring card payments to Bishop Auckland, Shildon and Spennymoor. Eighty one per cent of us would shop more locally if we knew that we could pay by card, so it is really important that small businesses start taking card payments if they don't already.

"We're excited to see a range of businesses from across the region getting started with card payments through this partnership. Not only are retailers on the high streets signing up, but also home-based and mobile businesses, all of whom are making the most of this offer and providing their customers with new ways to pay."

Business owners interested in the scheme can find out more at