Mandelson launches rescue effort for small business

A multi-billion package of financial
for business
has been announced by business Secretary Lord Mandelson.

It includes a £10bn working capital scheme securing up to £20bn of short-term
bank lending for companies with a turnover of up to £500m plus a £75m enterprise
fund for companies struggling to obtain finance. There is also an enterprise
finance guarantee scheme securing up to £1.3bn in additional bank loans for
firms with a turnover of up to £25m.

The measures come after mounting concern that small businesses were facing
collapse at alarming rate since the beginning of the financial crisis because
banks had become reluctant to lend.

The package was broadly welcomed by the Liberal Democrats but Tory shadow
business secretary Alan Duncan said in the Commons that the measures amounted to
‘a small bandage on a massive wound’ and were ‘a pale imitation’ of proposals
the Conservatives have put forward.

Mandelson said it was crucial to act now to help business and industry amid
warnings that scores of firms are going out of business that are worthy of

He said: ‘UK companies are the lifeblood of the economy and it is crucial
that the government acts now to provide real help to support them through the
downturn and see them emerge stronger on the other side.’

He said companies have been struggling to secure the funding they need, not
because of any failure in their business, but due to the ‘tough credit

He said discussions are under way with trade credit insurers on a possible
government scheme to help companies unable to secure insurance for normal
business transactions.

Mandelson said the government will provide the banks with guarantees covering
50% of the risk on existing and new working capital portfolios worth up to £20m
to ensure credit lines are not reduced or withdrawn, freeing up capital which
the banks are to use for new lending that would otherwise not have been
provided, as a condition of the scheme.

He said Chancellor Alistair Darling is in ongoing discussions on further
unspecified measures designed to restore more normal longing conditions –
understood to be a reference to possible state purchases of credit instruments
enabling more mortgage and other loan operations to proceed following the
collapse of the secondary market.

He said a relatively small amount of taxpayers’ money would be at risk to
secure a much bigger benefit but it was ‘a very major programme to bring new
working capital into existence’.

During Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, Tory leader David Cameron
repeatedly accused Gordon Brown of ‘copying’ Tory policies, but Brown insisted
the Tories were ‘out of touch with the rest of the world’ and ‘completely
isolated’ in demanding spending cuts.

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