SOME 30,000 Herefordshire households — about one third of the county’s total — have already snapped up £15 to spend in local, independent shops.

Prepaid cards, loaded with spending money, are being offered as part of the council's new Shop Local campaign.

It is part of a £6 million programme to boost the county's economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.

Announcing the scheme, the council said: “By keeping spending local we can help our local communities survive and thrive.

"The card must be used in Herefordshire. That way we can all help our great county and its local and independent retailers, producers and traders bounce back from the pandemic and ensure our retail, hospitality, cultural and leisure sectors continue to thrive.

"All businesses that accept Mastercard will be able to accept the Shop Local prepaid card. There is one card per household."

The card is not a credit card and will have no loan or credit facility. Users will only be able to make payments from the available balance on the card.

Any unspent funds remaining on the card by March 31, 2022, will be returned to the county council. However, residents are urged to keep hold of their cards as more funds could be made available for the scheme.

The card can be used only at businesses based within Herefordshire. There are also restrictions on purchases of alcohol, tobacco, gambling, dating services and TV subscriptions. It cannot be used to withdraw money from cash machines.

Councillor Ellie Chowns, cabinet member environment and economy said: "Herefordshire's fabulous local and independent retailers, producers, traders and hospitality sector help make our county the special place we all love, but they have had a particularly tough time during the Covid pandemic."

"The run-up to Christmas will be a key period for Herefordshire's economy – and local and independent traders.

"By incentivising residents to shop local at such an important time, the council hopes to boost overall spend with the local business community both in the run up to Christmas and beyond.”

To apply for a card, visit Herefordshire Council's website here. The deadline for applications is at the end of January next year.