Government-backed loan payouts reach £2.8b but small firms 'still missing out'

23 April 2020 by
Government-backed loan payouts reach £2.8b but small firms 'still missing out'

More than £2.8b has been paid out through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) as part of a package of support provided to SMEs however smaller firms are "still missing out".

Research by UK Finance, which represents more than 250 banking and finance firms, reported that total lending under CBILS doubled in the week 14-21 April, taking the total amount paid out to over £2.8b. It confirmed that 9,000 loans had been provided in the same period with the total number approved increasing by almost 120% to 16,600.

Confederation of British Industry (CBI) chief economist Rain Newton-Smith responded to the latest figures by saying: "These figures show that much needed finance is reaching more and more businesses, particularly larger firms. The government and banks are putting the shoulder to the wheel in unprecedented times."

However Newton-Smith added that while the pace was picking up, many firms were "still missing out" and that more loans must "get out the door faster for the businesses facing distress, especially smaller businesses".

He said that finding "quicker and simpler routes" for smaller firms to access cash and extending repayment schedules were two ways that could make a difference: "Saving jobs now will be far more cost effective in the end than trying to replace jobs lost".

National chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Mike Cherry said the figures were an "improvement" but the industry needed to see "far more from the banks" in terms of the speed of processing applications and making money available to applicants, particularly "micro businesses" operating in the "heart of our communities", such as restaurants and shops, seeking loans well below the £170,000 average.

"The government should up its guarantee on emergency loans with values under £30,000 from 80% to 100%. That, combined with the streamlined application process that should be in place for facilities of this size, should help to get more cash to the small firms that really need it."

Cherry said that the FSB was continuing to hear from small firms who were still unable to make loan applications because of "unresponsive customer service teams" and, for those who had managed to apply, the process was reported as being "very slow".

Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance, said: "The banking and finance sector understands the critical role we have in helping businesses through these tough times. We know businesses want to look after their most important resource – their people – and so lenders are offering additional support to firms awaiting grants from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme."

On 8 April it was reported that only 1% of firms had successfully accessed CBILS and many in the hospitality industry had voiced concerns about the difficulties in accessing the loans.

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