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Issue:- 09 June 2011

Banks and businesses must come together to boost economic growth, business leader tells summit

THE head of a leading business group has urged banks and businesses to find common ground in order to stimulate lending and rebuild the economy.

Phil Orford, Chief Executive of the Forum of Private Business, made his comments while addressing the Better Business Finance event in Manchester; a conference designed to bring both sides together in order to tackle the issues surrounding bank lending to businesses.

Mr Orford, who was the event’s keynote speaker, said that the time for "bashing and blaming" had passed.

Instead, he told the bank representatives, business leaders and company owners present that the time had come to move on, acknowledge failings on both sides and find common ground in order to stimulate economic growth.

Mr Orford said:- "Surely the time has come to acknowledge the issues and to find ways to move forward, constructively and collaboratively. Forget the bashing and the blaming. We are talking about enabling or disabling our recovery – it’s now that serious. Businesses and the banks need to take a critical inward look and accept that the days of easy credit have gone."

Highlighting the requirement for business owners to think objectively about how they appear to potential lenders, Mr Orford urged small firms to implement a range of measures in order to improve their creditworthiness.

These measures included offering assets as security, methodically preparing business plans and managing both business and personal credit ratings.

Mr Orford also spoke of his own experiences of being repeatedly turned down for bank lending when attempting to establish a business in the early 1980s, and drew parallels between his experiences and the experiences of many small firms over the past few years.

Mr Orford also told the banks that, due to their vast resources and infrastructure, they had a duty to reach out to small businesses and guide them through the process. He said:- "You deal with most if not all small businesses. You have access to them and communication with them - at your fingertips. You have the resources to make a difference. The smallest businesses do not?"

Mr Orford also urged the banks to put a halt to the closure of local branches, telling the assembled industry leaders:- "Many communities continue to experience branch closures – even when the branch is the last bank in town. This disenfranchises businesses from the major retail banks for business transactions and relationships, especially in rural areas. If the banks are committed to serving businesses and their local communities, this closure strategy must come to an end."

Additionally, Mr Orford called on the banks to improve what they offer to businesses and speed up efforts to produce a viable alternative to cheques. He said:- "We need to see new products for business that are relevant for our time. Flexible products – maybe even bundled products – which allow borrowers to switch around for use at the appropriate time. Technological advances must enable faster process at reduced cost to business – particularly for the smallest - and I would cite faster payments as an example. And what about the removal of the cheque – when will we see the retail banks testing and implementing alternative payment methods, many of which will be vital for small firms?"

The Forum has been campaigning to increase the flow of credit to smaller businesses ever since the financial crisis and has repeatedly urged the banks to restore localised lending decisions in order to make credit assessments fairer and more accurate.

The not-for-profit organisation also helps its members become more finance-ready and improve their credit ratings as part of a wide range of support services.


ALMOST 9,000 vehicles across the UK were stolen in just 36 days at the beginning of 2011, equating to one stolen every 6 minutes, reports the Association of Chief Police Officers Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service (AVCIS).  The statistics have been revealed ahead of AVCIS’ Car Crime Awareness Week, which takes place on 13 June 2011 to 19 June 2011. The initiative aims to raise the public’s awareness of vehicle crime methods in order to drive down offences.  

This new data illustrates that 50% of thefts were made when a vehicle was left at the owner’s home address or close by, including 17.6% through the burglary of properties to obtain car keys.

A third were stolen when vehicles were away from the home and four per cent of crimes during the 36 day sample were made by opportunist thieves, where keys were left in or within easy reach of the vehicle. Shockingly, this would mean that annually 3,400 thefts could be easily prevented through heightened awareness.

"These figures demonstrate that vehicle crime continues to be an issue across the UK. Criminals will use a variety of means to steal cars, from towing them away or simply driving them off when owners leave the keys in the ignition to burgling houses and sophisticated attacks on manufacturers’ security systems. Our aim is to increase general awareness, including encouraging motorists to take simple precautions and advise manufacturers of criminals’ methods so they can continue to help drive down vehicle crime."
said Detective Chief Inspector Mark Hooper, Head of AVCIS.

In the lead up and during Car Crime Awareness Week AVCIS will release information on the current state of vehicle crime relating to freight vehicles, agricultural equipment, caravans and motorhomes, as well as to the general motorist.  For more information on vehicle crime and AVCIS visit:- or the Car Crime Awareness Week Facebook page.


GREATER opportunities for converting farm buildings to residential properties are on the way, according to local property experts Savills.

Proposals for affordable homes should also be supported, further to the Government's recent response to the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s report on farming in England's upland areas.

The official response says:- "Planning authorities in rural areas with high demand for homes may want to consider amending their local planning policies to support the change of use of farm buildings to affordable homes where these are considered inappropriate for employment use, or take the need for affordable homes into account in assessing individual applications."

Samuel Stafford, a planning consultant at Savills, comments:- "The approach to converting farm buildings differs greatly, even between neighbouring local authorities. Those in coastal or other tourist locations will generally be supportive of holiday lets, but the approach of others can vary between acceptance of open market housing to policies that allow only commercial use. A general support from Government would at least provide a consistent fall back position."

The Government response to the upland areas inquiry also reaffirmed plans to publish a countryside policy statement before the summer recess to ensure "fair treatment of rural people and places" in all its policies. The statement will cover telecommunications, housing, health, education, economic development, energy and transport.

Simon Britton, Agribusiness Director at Savills, added that:- "We will await with interest to see how rural communities will be affected by the Government’s key strategy of Localism and economic growth. Rural diversification such as the conversion of farm buildings has a crucial role to play in the socio-economic well being of the countryside and we hope that this is recognised."

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