Banks must 'put their backs into it' to save livelihood, warns Governor

The Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, has called on the banks to "put their backs into it" and increase the number of emergency loan applications that are being processed.

The government launched its Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) on March 11 with a view to providing billions of pounds of interest free loans to small and medium sized businesses.

The idea is to prevent otherwise viable businesses from failing during this crisis due to a lack of cash but speed is of the absolute essence and the evidence is that the banks are struggling to get the money out of the door.

The IFS said it is the young and those on low incomes who will suffer the most from the coronavirus outbreak. Credit: PA

To date, 6020 firms have borrowed a grand total of just £1.1 billion. Approximately 300,000 have made enquiries.

Andrew Bailey accepts there is a problem which he puts down to both the number of applications and the "risk appetite" of banks in the face of a severe recession.

The CBILS loans are 80 per cent underwritten by the taxpayer which leaves banks on the hook for 20 per cent, if the money borrowed isn’t repaid.

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"Banks are not dragging their feet in the sense they don't want to lend," Bailey told journalists earlier.

"I know from my time at the Financial Conduct Auhthority that it's not easy to form a view of the credit-worthiness of smaller firms".

Bailey said there were initially design faults with the scheme which he said have since been addressed and it was now essential that banks started moving up through the gears.

"I'm not sanguine about this issue," Bailey said. "The banks have got to to dig in and really process these applications quickly. Livelihoods are at stake".

Rishi Sunak has admitted coronavirus will have a serious impact on the economy. Credit: PA

The government is under pressure to start underwriting 100 per cent of the value of the CBILS scheme. Bailey suggested that would be one way to "unblock" the system but insisted the decision is "one for the government and one for the chancellor, it’s their risk".

Andrew Bailey said the Bank of England's Covid Corporate Financing Facility - a loan scheme designed for large, investment grade companies - has loaned £9.4 billion so far, a number which is rising by £500m a day.

It's all very well getting money out of the door, the concern is a lot of it may not come back. As Bailey noted, there is plenty of evidence that the recession is starting to bite.

There has been a "big drop" in credit card activity, the housing market as "dropped to almost nothing" and applications for universal credit have soared to 1.4 million.

An empty Old Broad Street with the Bank of England in the distance, in the City of London, the day after Boris Johnson put the UK in lockdown. Credit: PA

Earlier this week the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) suggested that that economic could shrink by an unprecedented 35 per cent between April and June if the lockdown, which began on March 23, were to last for three months.

"There's nothing implausible about that number," Bailey insisted, although he said there was still high amounts of uncertainty regarding how long restrictions will remain in place, how they will be lifted and whether or not they will need to be reimposed.

Neither the government nor the Bank of England can prevent a recession.

The action they are taking is designed to prevent permanent economic scarring.

The hope is that by acting big and moving fast businesses will be survive and restart when the emergency passes.

For that to happen the schemes the government has launched have to start working in the way they were designed to.