THE Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB) has joined forces with a Bolton business support network to boost halal enterprises in the region.

The bank, together with Bolton Business Ventures has launched a pioneering scheme to make funding of up to £25,000 available to the growing number of companies that avoid activities - such as the sale of alcohol or cigarettes - prohibited by Muslim Shariah law. The bank's facilities are available to Muslim and non-Muslim companies and it specialises in providing cash-generating alternatives for Muslim clients who are prohibited by religious law from paying or receiving interest.

Funding from £5,000 will be made available through the North-west Ethical Fund - which is administered by Bolton Business Ventures - to suitable halal' companies. Halal is the Islamic term for "permitted".

The funds are available to all sectors of the community, irrespective of religious background.

It is estimated that Britain's Muslim community contributes more than £31 billion to the economy each year, according to the Institute of Asian Professionals.

Bolton Business Ventures chief executive Paul Davidson said: "In the interests of financial inclusion, it is important to look at how financing for entrepreneurs can be made inclusive through access to finance facilities that are in line with ethical principles.

"The Islamic Bank of Britain has established itself as a market-leading innovator and we are delighted that it is our partner in this exciting initiative.

"We believe in financial inclusion for all and we aim to provide enterprise services to all sectors of the community."