State sets up review of credit office to decide its future
Interested parties tasked with 'top to bottom' assessment
THE Government is to carry out a review of the performance of the Credit Review Office, and is expected to decide whether it is worth continuing the work it has done up to now.
The Irish Independent has learned the review, which will be carried out by a working party set up by the Department of Finance and featuring representatives from small business trade groups, the banking industry, and other interested parties, will look at the CRO "from top to bottom" and assess its performance to date.
The group, which is essentially a newer version of the Small Business Advisory Group, met last year to discuss problems affecting the SME sector.
It will investigate a number of issues, but the future of the CRO is one of the major questions it will be tasked with dealing with this time around.
It has met twice so far, and the final terms of reference for the group will be published on July 24.
The review is likely to take some time, and the group will look at a number of factors tied to the Government's action plan for jobs as well as the CRO.
The Credit Review Office, which adjudicates on loans to small business that have been rejected by AIB and Bank of Ireland, is known to have strong support in government circles, with senior officials believed to be pleased with its performance in the two years since it was set up.
However, the CRO has long been a bone of contention for both the banking sector and SMEs.
Lobby groups for small firms, have consistently accused the CRO and its head John Trethowan of providing a cover for the banks to not lend, describing it as "bankers working for bankers" in reference to Mr Trethowan's background as a senior executive with the Northern Bank and National Irish Bank.
The banks, meanwhile, had backed the CRO until its most recent report, which accused the pillar banks of not lending enough.
This led to the heads of the two main banks taking Mr Trethowan to task, leaving the current relationship between them very tetchy.
While the banks say there is little demand for credit, the likes of ISME and the Small Firms Association have contended the demand is low because their members have been put off from formally applying for credit.