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UK banks have made just 6,000 SME coronavirus loans

The amount is up 150 per cent from 6 April 2020 to £1.1bn, but still far below what is needed according to many.

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Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak/The Treasury

UK financial institutions have lent over £1.1bn to SMEs through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), UK Finance revealed today.

Only just over 6,000 loans have been provided so far through CBILS, almost double the amount from one week ago, and the average amount lent to businesses is roughly £190,000.

In the past week, the total lent to SMEs lept by 150 per cent to £700m, on 6 April 2020 the figure was £453m.

The daily number of loan approvals is continuing to rise, from 240 on 2 April to 910 on 8 April and a further 1,800 loans worth over £300 million were approved over the bank holiday weekend.

However, with payroll looming for millions of SMEs in just 10 days time, pressure is growing on the government to overhaul a scheme which is viewed by many as moving too slowly.

Stephen Jones, CEO of UK Finance, said: “The banking and finance sector recognises the challenging conditions faced by many businesses and the critical role we must play in helping the country get through this crisis.”

“Frontline staff in local branches and call centres are working incredibly hard to help firms access finance as quickly as possible amid unprecedented demand. Like all businesses, they are working at reduced capacity as many staff are self-isolating or looking after family,” he added.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said: “Getting finance to businesses is a key part of our plan to support jobs and the economy during this crisis - and we’re working with lenders to ensure support reaches those in need as soon as physically possible.”

Sunak added that he hoped the scheme would continue on its current “upward trajectory”. 

Today, 250 accountancy firms wrote an open letter asking the Chancellor to expand Government financial support even further to include more SMEs, in particular sole traders, who are currently excluded. 

There were also earlier calls from SMEs for the Chancellor to overhaul the scheme and just over a week after the initial scheme was announced, he extended CBILS to include larger SMEs who were too big to claim under the initial programme. 

Many claimed the scheme was too difficult to navigate and that lenders were placing too many restrictions, meaning that few SMEs were being approved for loans and those that were thought the money wouldn’t reach them in time.

Over the bank holiday weekend, the British Business Bank also approved new lenders for accreditation under CBILS, including Starling Bank and OakNorth, following calls to involve digital banks and non-traditional lenders in the scheme.

As of yesterday, there have been nearly 28,500 formal applications to the CBILS.

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