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
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.
CAR IS STOLEN EVERY SIX MINUTES
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:-
avcis.police.uk or the Car
Crime Awareness Week
BARN CONVERSIONS LIKELY TO GET MORE PLANNING SUPPORT
opportunities for converting farm buildings to residential
properties are on the way, according to local property experts
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
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
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
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."