Business: Rural Areas

Business, Innovation and Skills written question – answered on 18th July 2011.

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Photo of William Bain William Bain Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills what recent estimate he has made of the likely level of business capital to be available in rural communities in each of the next four financial years.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

The Government do not have any evidence that rural businesses have any issues regarding access to finance beyond those identified for businesses generally.

The British Bankers Association (BBA) taskforce has made 17 commitments to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in order to support economic recovery. These commitments cover bank relationships with SME customers, access to finance and promoting understanding.

One of these was a commitment to enhance the cross-industry lending dataset by broadening the statistics available on lending to deprived areas and national and regional data on the provision of bank support to business start-ups. The first set of data is expected in autumn 2011. This information will help us to identify any regions or specific areas where there is a particular issue with accessing finance.

The Government are also committed to supporting microfinance, to support loans to SMEs and start-ups in disadvantaged groups and communities.

Community development finance institutions (CDFIs) lend to enterprises that traditional lenders may consider too costly to serve or too risky (this might be for reasons including absence of a track record or lack of security to offer to the lender), but who have viable business plans and will have a positive impact on the local community. We have given the go-ahead (subject to due diligence) for a new £30 million wholesale fund, funded through the regional growth fund, that will provide resources for CDFIs. This will be the largest fund of its kind for the sector ever.

On a national level, the Government continue to support the enterprise finance guarantee scheme, facilitating lending to viable SMEs that lack sufficient collateral or track record to access bank finance on standard commercial terms. To date, over £1.5 billion of loans have been offered to SMEs through the enterprise finance guarantee, which has been extended to 2014-15, with £700 million available this year.

As a result of talks with the Government, the UK's five major banks have stated a capacity and willingness to lend £190 billion of new credit to business in 2011, including new businesses. This includes £76 billion of new lending to SMEs, which is a 15% increase on the amount lent in 2010.

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