Latest lending scheme can't overcome economic issues

Darryl Danielli
Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Another week, another government scheme to increase lending to SMEs.

As we’ve learned to expect, details on the ‘business bank’, revealed by business secretary Vince Cable at the Liberal Democrat conference this week, are predictably scant.

It appears that the basic premise is that the government will spend £1bn to create a new bank that will help generate a £10bn pot for start-up banks to lend to businesses. At the moment, it’s speculated that the bank will take 18 months to establish and will be focused on longer-term loans, typically around the 10-year mark.

The goal is to increase the availability of finance to fund growth and increase competition by introducing new lenders and thereby reduce the cost of borrowing.

So far it sounds great, but then so did all of the other initiatives to increase lending. The problem that this latest scheme faces, just like the others, is that in the present climate lenders are predictably risk averse.

All the various initiatives seem to have proven so far is that, if you’re perceived as a low risk then affordable finance isn’t a problem; if not, then you will struggle. And the reality is that, no matter how many schemes the government unveils, this is not likely to change until the economy improves.

However, if the speculation proves true then this latest scheme is not supposed to be a short-term fix. And if it helps protect SMEs from being fiscally strangled during the next downturn, then it’s no bad thing – but let’s not kid ourselves that it will make a blind bit of difference to the availability of finance in this one.


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