Businesses handed £5.5bn in coronavirus relief loans

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Banks have funnelled more than £5.5 billion to small and medium sized companies to help keep them afloat as part of a Government support scheme.

UK Finance said that its members, which include the biggest banks in the country, have approved another £1.4 billion in new loans since last week.

The data, which covers the week to Tuesday, showed that another 8,500 loans were agreed over the period.

The loans are all part of the Government’s coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS), which launched in March.

A little over half of the 63,000 businesses who have sent completed applications to the banks have been approved, UK Finance said.

“The banking and finance industry is committed to helping viable businesses of all sizes get through these tough times,” said UK Finance boss Stephen Jones.

On Monday banks launched their new bounce back schemes, which provide a 100% Government-backed loan of up to 25% of turnover, to a maximum of £50,000.

Just 24 hours later the banks had approved 69,000 applications, worth £2 billion combined.

The pace far outstrips the CBILS, which only has an 80% Government guarantee and requires more due diligence from the banks.

Mr Jones added: “Bank staff have worked tirelessly over the past week to provide businesses with the finance they need, delivering another £1.4 billion of lending under the CBIL scheme, on top of over £2 billion in bounce back loans targeted at smaller firms and sole traders.”

However, he warned businesses not to think of the loans as free money.

“It’s important to remember that any financing provided under the CBIL or BBL schemes is a debt not a grant, and so firms should carefully consider their ability to repay before applying.”

Banks have faced criticism from some business owners who feel they have had to wait too long for their loans to arrive.

“Although the steady improvement in the number of firms accessing CBILS is welcome, with many firms only having a few months’ cash in reserve, the pace of delivery remains disappointingly slow,” British Chambers of Commerce head of economics Suren Thiru said.

However, on a call with reporters on Thursday morning, Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey said that some of the challenges in the scheme were because the banks had to adapt to a totally new way of working.

He said: “We are all having to deal with operating in an unusual way and in a working environment that is very different to normal. Banks have had to adjust to lending in an environment while they’re not operating as normal and most of their staff are working from home.

Financing under the scheme is now “coming through”, Mr Bailey said. “It’s taken a while, but we’ve kept at it and credit to the Chancellor – he’s really stuck with it and is determined that these schemes will work.”

The loans are part of a massive rescue scheme for the economy, put together by chancellor Rishi Sunak to help prop up companies and jobs.

The Government is already picking up the wage bills of millions of workers, after guaranteeing to pay 80% of salaries for many employees who have been sent home due to the economic shutdown.

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