Bank lending top of agenda

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BANK lending topped the agenda at a forum for small businesses in the North West this week as they were challenged over lending to the small business community.

The Question Time-style debate, hosted by Leigh-based TaxAssist Accountants with a panel of specialist advisers including representatives from NatWest and HSBC, brought together sole traders and business owners from across the North West to raise the big issues facing small businesses.

NatWest’s Dave Furnival said: “The key message to the market is that, if you have a solid, realistic business plan, we are very much ‘open’ for business and are keen to lend to the small business community. And now is a good time; schemes such as the Government’s Funding for Lending means businesses can access loans at far more favourable rates and, in many cases, with no set up fees.”

John Norman who runs TaxAssist Accountants said; “When we put the call out for questions for the forum, the most frequently asked was about lending and what the banks are doing to help small businesses.

“There is definitely a perception that the banks aren’t lending, however feedback from the panel and small businesses at the forum was that, where applications had been made, more often than not banks were lending, however many small businesses were put off applying for fear of being turned down.

“It was also apparent that there is a definite lack of trust in the latest government schemes with many believing it is more lip service than actual action to help small business.”

The forum also called for a central advice point to help with vital business planning, growth and finance issues.

Phil Sullivan, Network Operations and Finance Director, TaxAssist Accountants, told the forum: “The problem is there is no central point for small businesses to go to. With the demise of Business Link there are very few avenues for sole traders and small business owners to go down for one-to-one advice and the sort of personal business relationships which can be a lifeline for them.

“The Government must address this if they are serious about helping small businesses grow.”

The business forum’s panel of experts also included Nick Bradbury from HSBC, Steve Watts from business rescue advisors FA Simms and Steve Venables from financial services specialist Independent Financial Services.