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Issue:- 10 January 2013

FSB Vice Chairman comments on expansion of start-up loans for young entrepreneurs

JOHN Allan welcomes move but urges government to focus on 'broken relationship' between small businesses and banks following declining lending figures

John Allan, FSB national Vice Chairman and Chairman of Merseyside, West Cheshire and Wigan, has commented on today's £30 million boost to start-up loans for young entrepreneurs.

Under the scheme, when a business plan is approved budding entrepreneurs are able to access a low-interest loan - typically valued at approximately £2,500 - with a repayment period of up to five years.

According to a government statement more than 3,000 people have applied or registered an interest in a start-up loan to date.

In the 3 months that the scheme has been running more than £1.5 million in loans have been approved, allowing 460 new businesses to get off the ground. Around 100 new businesses a week are expected to reach approval stage in January, and thousands more in the months ahead.

However, in December 2012 official figures showed that small business lending under the Government's flagship scheme, the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG), fell by around £160 million year-on-year, from around £461 million in 20110/11 to £301 million in 2011/12.

In September 2012 the Business Minister, Michael Fallon, wrote to the Chief Executives of the 5 main high street banks to encourage them to increase their use of the scheme, after the data showed that significantly fewer loans had been granted in 2012 compared to the previous year. In 2010/11 the figure was 4,685 while 2011/12 saw just 2,999 EFG loans to small business owners.

Mr Allan said:- "By increasing the pot for start-up loans by £30 million to £110 million over the next three years, and the age range of those eligible from 24 to 30 in order to meet demand, the Government is moving in the right direction in addressing the gap in small business finance.  But it needs to pick up the pace considerably and not lose focus on rebuilding the broken relationship between small businesses and banks. The Government is indeed acting on a number of fronts but failed initiatives, including Project Merlin's lending targets, combined with the financial scandals of mis-selling and the manipulation of the inter-bank lending rate, have fuelled scepticism and a sense of alienation among small business owners. With the new Funding for Lending and Business Bank schemes in mind, 2013 must bring real results in reducing the cost of lending and boosting competition in order to free firms to create jobs and drive economic growth. Fewer than one in 10 firms responding to the FSB's quarter four 'Voice of Small Business' index considered credit to be easily available. That is simply not good enough."

Attendance up and exclusions down

ATTENDANCE at schools in Liverpool is at a record high while the number of pupils being excluded has dropped by more than 40% over the last year.

The Council's annual behaviour and attendance report for 2011 to 2012 shows that overall attendance for primary schools stands at 95%; an improvement of 0.89% on the previous year. In secondary schools it is 93.11%; an increase of 0.94%.

A total of 26 of the City's 29 secondary schools improved their overall attendance, while 113 of the 123 primaries did better.

The most common cause of absence was illness, and pupils missing lessons due to taking holidays in term time fell in the secondary sector to 3.69% from 4.37%, but rose in primaries; up to 9.87% from 9.65%.

The number of permanent exclusions is the lowest since 2006, falling 41% in secondary schools; down from 90 to 53, and 40%; from 25 to 15 ; in primary schools.

The most common reason was continual disruptive behaviour. Boys heavily outweigh girls, accounting for 79% in secondary schools and 93% in primary schools.

Councillor Jane Corbett, Cabinet member for education, said:- "These figures are extremely encouraging and I am pleased that we are making progress through our strong working relationship with schools and giving parents the best possible support. We hear and read a great deal about the behaviour of young people, but the figures show that it really is a minority of pupils who are permanently excluded from schools; just 0.04% in primary schools and two in a thousand in secondary schools.  It is important though that we are not complacent as it is vital that pupils spend as much time as they can in school. Every pupil who does not attend or is excluded is damaging their chances of a successful future."

The number of fixed term (temporary) exclusions fell around a third in the autumn and spring terms of 2011/12 – down to 1,168 from 1,585 the previous year. And the number of pupils receiving more than fixed term exclusion fell by around a 3rd.

The figures come after a recent Ofsted inspection of the City's Secondary Education Centre in Netherley, which takes in pupils that are at risk of or have been excluded, rated it as:- "good with outstanding features."

Last year, the Council established a Behaviour Services Review Group with headteachers, officers and practitioners which analyses data and provision to help with further improvement.

The report will be considered by the Council's Children's Services Select Committee on Thursday, 10 January 2012.

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