NEW small businesses that start up in Glasgow are to have their rents and rates paid for them for up to four years in a bid to kick-start economic growth.

Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson is to announce a £1.5 million New Business Fund to help small to medium businesses launch in the city.

The deal is part of a new "beyond recession" blueprint for the city designed to support the public sector and open up new job opportunities for Glaswegians.

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It will be revealed at the City Economy Conference at the Radisson Blu Hoteltoday, where Mr Matheson will say that Glasgow will ensure its future economic success through careful planning.

Alistair Darling MP is due to give the keynote address.

Mr Matheson is expected to tell business leaders: "Small businesses are struggling to access affordable premises, and the cost of rent stops people from starting their own companies.

"We have listened to these concerns and we will act. I am delighted to announce the establishment of the Glasgow New Business Fund. This will allow new-start SMEs [small and medium enterprises] to get financial support from the council which will see us pay all or part of their rent and rates for up to four years."

Glasgow been hit hard by the economic downturn. A recent report said the city centre had lost 105 major retailers in six months, with only 47 opening – the highest rate of closures in the country.