Birmingham is to have five new town centre managers as part of wide-ranging measures to boost small businesses and retail in the city during the recession.

A £1 million package of Working Neighbourhood Fund cash will also ensure that the city’s seven existing town centre and retail managers can continue to boost trade and improve the prospects of high streets.

Cabinet member for regeneration Neville Summerfield made the announcement as he visited small businesses in Northfield, Witton, Ladypool Road and Erdington yesterday to see the help being provided by the city council.

The new town centre managers will shortly be appointed to cover Kings Heath and Moseley, Sutton Coldfield, Bordesley and Coventry Road Small Heath. Selly Oak, Stirchley and Cotteridge will also have a manager as will Soho Road, Villa Road and Lozells.

Coun Summerfield said: “The funding for the seven existing managers would have ended today, so it is great that we secured this WNF funding to continue and expand the service.

“They have proved a success increasing trade, improving town centres and creating jobs.”

During the tour he visited Witton Road, Aston, where the Ulfat family have just invested a £22,838 Aston Pride grant, which they match funded, in upgrading their Witton Superstore. The family have run the shop since 1980.

The shop had been suffering, particularly since shopping giant Tesco opened a superstore nearby.

But with a clean new front, a shop refit and extra security systems in place they have noticed an upturn in fortunes.

Naheen Ulfat said: “Since the refurbishment we have increased turnover, created three new full-time jobs, and are looking for more part-time staff.

“It has made a huge improvement, business is good and picking up.”

Coun Summerfield, who stopped to browse at the store, said: “We are doing what we can to safeguard businesses like this.

“Aston Pride has £1?million to hand to small businesses in the area over the next four years, and it is not just hand-outs, they must put up 50 per cent themselves.”

He said the council was looking to fund and roll out the initiative in the suburbs where there are no well-supported regeneration schemes like Aston Pride.

“About 75,000 people in Birmingham are employed by small businesses like these so it is vital we do what we can to support them,” he added.

Other measures announced during the tour included the securing of funding to allow a Northfield one-stop advice shop, facing imminent closure, to remain open and reviewing still on-going tornado recovery support being offered to residents and businesses in the Stratford Road and Ladypool Road areas.

As well as giving money to individual businesses, he announced the start of work on £1.6 million worth of environmental improvements to Northfield town centre.

He reviewed the continued success of the Erdington Business Improvement District, discussed plans for extending the pedestrianisation of High Street, and viewed the progress of works to restore St Barnabas Church.