It's time for Government to back small businesses

Pat Rabbitte
Pat Rabbitte
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Farmers will welcome the news that the IFA has challenged the Government on bank lending and the manner in which financial institutions are dealing with customers.

The IFA has come together with the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), Irish Property Owners Association (IPOA) and RGDATA to highlight the weakness of current lending and credit arrangements for small businesses and farmers.

At a press briefing yesterday, the business alliance claimed banks were imposing unreasonable conditions on customers who were seeking to refinance loans.

The business group called on the Government and Central Bank to ensure that engagement between these enterprises and the banking sector was undertaken with the primary objective of retaining the viability of the core business and keeping people in employment.

A reasonable request, one would suspect.

At yesterday's press conference, the group also outlined a protocol for the banks. The group's key demands were:

* Banks must seek resolutions that preserve the viability of the underlying business and maintain employment;

* For all negotiations, a clearly identified point of contact in the bank must be agreed, who has responsibility for delivering a sustainable solution acceptable to both parties;

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* A dispute resolution/ mediation service must be employed where banks and borrowers cannot reach agreement;

* Agreements reached must be full and final.

They also have called for:

1. Lenders to fully engage with borrowers, without recourse to harassment or intimidation;

2. Lenders to provide, at the outset, to borrowers all information they hold on the borrower, in line with the requirements of the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003.

3. Lenders to be prepared to negotiate on the basis of reaching full and final settlement with the borrower, without any further, future conditions attached to the settlement.

4. Where a solution cannot be reached by negotiation between borrowers and lenders, the group want an independent mediation service to be engaged.

God knows if the alliance gets anywhere, but it will be interesting to see if the Government is more amenable to the needs of small business and the general public in the wake of the weekend's election results.

Politics is a cruel business and you'd have to feel sorry for many of the councillors and MEPs who failed to get re-elected and were effectively out of a job after last week's ballots.

However, there will be little sympathy for the leadership of either Fine Gael or Labour following the trouncing their parties received.

The Government can moan until the cows come home about the tough decisions they have had to take – and undoubtedly they were left with a mess to clean up by Fianna Fáil and the Greens – but that line doesn't wash for many of their more recent own goals.

What had the financial meltdown to do with the whistleblower debacle or the exorbitant costs associated with the setting up of Irish Water, or even with the disgraceful manner in which many medical card holders have been treated?

All of these controversies were of the Government's own making.

Similarly, the attitude of Minister Pat Rabbitte to the opposition campaign to Eirgrid's 'pylon plan' was typical of a government that was out of step with the mood of the country.

That he was forced to take a step back on the issue admitted as much.

Hopefully the walloping that the electorate inflicted will help provoke the required change of approach and attitude.

They could start by taking on the banks and giving small businesses a break.

Indo Farming

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