independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Giving credit to those who decide where it is due

THE latest government survey into lending to small business makes for fascinating reading.

The news that nearly a quarter of SMEs are being refused credit and not given an explanation, and that the average waiting time for a decision on an application is 29 days, will disturb many people.

However, buried in the press release that accompanied the survey was news of a public consultation on the future of the Credit Review Office.

The Government is asking the public to make suggestions to improve the CRO, which acts as a de facto adjudicator on SME credit applications that have been rejected by the pillar banks.

John Trethowan, who heads the CRO, has done an admirable job to date, especially when he has to deal with sniping both from SME lobby groups and the banks.

The problem for many people, though, is the low number of formal applications his office has dealt in nearly three years.

It has formally taken 262 cases, and only 172 of those have required a formal decision from the CRO.

Yesterday's lending survey showed that even at this stage barely three-quarters of SMEs are aware of its existence.

The CRO is a good idea in principle, but it needs to be more proactive if it is to be a viable option for businesses refused credit.

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