MORE than £300,000 could be made available to help set up new tourist information facilities across South Lakeland.

Shops, town councils and tourism businesses wanting to offer ‘face-to-face’ information to visitors will be given a helping hand to realise their ambitions over the next four years.

South Lakeland District Council has revealed it wants to create a special start-up fund with potentially £150,000 available in the first year, £100,000 in the second, £75,000 in the third year and £50,000 up to March 2015.

The idea follows controversial proposals to close tourist information centres in Ulverston, Windermere and Kendal.

SLDC says it will create ‘new modern, visitor information facilities across the district.’ The service runs into the red every year and has to be subsidised by the council, which receives no help to provide the free service.

The authority is being forced by the recession and Treasury demands for efficiency savings to make drastic cuts to its budget.

This has spelled a death knell for the publicly-run TICs, with the council wanting to withdraw from ‘provision from 2011.

However, the council said it wants ‘to continue making a significant financial contribution’ to ensure alternatives schemes have every chance of getting up and running.

It has given interested parties such as tourism businesses until March 2011 to look at establishing a service to be subsidised by the new fund.

Coun Graham Vincent said: “What was once the ‘get it from the TIC generation’ has now become the ‘get-it-from-Google generation’ and the balance is going to tip even more in this direction over the next decade.”

He added that SLDC would continue to work with other organisations and authorities to oversee the ‘change in service provision’.