Banks need to simplify lending process to ease credit flow

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Banks need to simplify lending process to ease credit flow

Simon Quicke
With the budget just five days away the Chancellor has been called on to do more to ease small business lending to free up credit and access to funds for struggling SMEs.

The government has already made moves, in the shape of Project Merlin, to try and get more credit flowing to small businesses but the Forum of Private Business (FPB) has urged it to do more.

Last month the banks signed up to provide £190bn in lending to businesses this year with £76bn of that total earmarked for SMEs. The Bank of England is going to monitor the lending levels from those banks, HSBC, Barclays, RBS, Santander and Lloyds Banking Group, that have signed up to project Merlin.

But despite that move the banks have claimed that the demand from small firms for credit has not risen, which has led the FPB to call for a simplification of the lending process as measures to be taken in next weeks Budget.

"The banks say demand is down. They say applications are running at an 80% acceptance rate. If this is the case, how do they intend to increase lending to small firms by 15%?," asked FPB chief executive Phil Orford.

"I believe the answer is that they must review risk criteria and be less punitive on viability assessments - and make a particular effort to cut down on sector-based discrimination," he added.

The FPB has already set out its vision of what it wants from the government in its Get Britain Trading programme.

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