ABOUT 270 small businesses in County Durham will benefit directly from the Government's announcement that £30m is being invested to help them with training and development.

Business support up to a value of £1,250 is being made available by the Department for Education and Skills to help a small business develop the skills of its workforce using the Investors in People standard.

Jayne Graham, managing director of Business Link County Durham, said: "Obviously, we welcome this announcement. This extra funding is good news for the smaller companies, employing between five and 49 people, that will benefit from our help to gain Investors In People (IIP).

"More than 70 per cent of the business population of County Durham is classified as small businesses and make a significant contribution to the North-East economy.

"They have been quick to realise that IIP is a highly valuable tool for business and we already have 262 businesses with the IIP standard and another 40 actively working towards it. They are involved in a wide variety of sectors from catering and car components to ball bearings and residential care.

"Our aim now is to try to attract additional funding to back this initiative and ensure that, by March 2005, the county has made a significant contribution to the Government's aim of tripling the number of small companies using IIP."