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Issue:- 17/18  February 2009

Find alternative sources of finance for credit-starved small firms

ALTERNATIVE sources of finance may be the answer to the credit crisis engulfing small firms, according to a small business support group. 

With traditional forms of lending to SMEs in short supply, the Forum or Private Business (FPB) believes that a move away from bank lending could help many firms to stay afloat.  As a result, it is urging the Government to look into creating more alternative options for small businesses which have been denied finance by traditional sources of lending.

The call comes in the wake of this week’s Public Accounts Committee report, which found that the banks have broken their promises to lend to small businesses, placing many in danger of insolvency.  The FPB is continuing to lobby for banks to increase the supply of credit to small firms. However, the lobby group is arguing that ‘counter-cyclical’ alternatives need to be put in place which will be less affected by recession and will increase choice and diversity in the marketplace.

The options which the FPB believes policymakers should look into include corporate bonds, leasing, invoice financing, supply chain credit and, following the recommendations made by the Rowlands Review, venture capital.  The FPB is also arguing that the Government should consider steps to reduce small firms’ dependency on external finance altogether.

The FPB has set out its views on the issue in a discussion paper, which will be submitted to the Treasury.  Additionally, FPB chief executive Phil Orford was attending a meeting on non-bank lending with City minister Lord Myners at 11 Downing Street.

FPB policy representative Matt Goodman said:- “Our research indicates that smaller businesses are too dependant on the banks for finance.  At the same time, the recent crisis in the banking industry has made it clear that access to credit should be less dependent on the economic cycle. Any way of reducing the ‘feast or famine’ view of credit needs to be resolved before the next economic downturn.  Of course, we will continue to lobby for the banks to increase lending to small firms and decide credit applications through a fairer and less centralised process. But at the same time, we believe the Government needs to put credible alternative sources of finance in place which will reduce the monopoly on lending the banking industry has.”

Recent FPB research found that the main obstacles for businesses in accessing finance are bank-related.  The availability of credit from banks emerged as the number one problem for 19% of members, followed by the cost of finance (11%) and the perception that banks will only lend to businesses if the have assets (10%).  As a result, the FPB believes that the Government should prioritise promoting choice in accessing finance to ensure that future downturns in the UK economy are not made worse by issues over access to affordable credit.

Will this help, if it arrives, come to late?  Email your views and thoughts to

Home Secretary gives green light to Mosquito device

MOSQUITO, the controversial device that produces an annoying high-pitched noise to disperse youths has won the backing of the Home Secretary.

The Mosquito, devised by Merthyr Tydfil-based company Compound Security Systems Ltd., emits a noise at a frequency only young people and teenagers can hear.  They can be used by beleaguered shopkeepers, takeaway owners, banks and supermarkets etc. to scatter gangs of youths gathering outside their shops.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson stressed his personal commitment to the devices when addressing MPs during Home Office questions and added that he felt the devices were “very helpful“ in aiding communities plagued by groups of “rowdy young people” He was responding to a call from Labour MP Natasha Engel for the devices to be banned because she claimed they were discriminatory.

Mr. Johnson told MPs:- “There is evidence that shows these devices can be very helpful where people feel a congregation of rowdy young people is actually adversely affecting their quality of life.”

But it has attracted criticism from civil rights campaigners, who complain that the devices discriminate against the young.

In December, First Great Western trains were forced to turn off the device at a Devon station after complaints from young travellers. They have since confirmed that they have reinstated the Mosquito, but rather than leaving it running 24/7, the device will be used now at specific times of the day.  Even our editor Patrick Trollope has complained about the device after having been affected by it, and he is well over the age group it is meant to only affect, but he is not the only adult to complain!

Compound Security Commercial Director Simon Morris responded to the Home Secretary’s statement:- “We are pleased to see that the government have at last given support to the Mosquito’s use by police and local authorities. We have been campaigning for two years to get officials to meet with use to draw up a national implementation policy for the use of the device and we hope now that the device has Home Office approval, that this will happen”.

Mr. Morris also stated that:- “forthcoming budget cuts for police and local government will mean that there will be even less money available to tackle anti-social behaviour and vandalism in the coming years. Implementing Mosquito’s with a clear set of usage guidelines for the police and local authorities has the potential to save millions of pounds annually”.

Background - A written Declaration was submitted to the European Parliament in June 2008 asking for a total ban on the Mosquito device. At the close of the vote in September 2008 only 7% of MEP’s had voted to ban the device.

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