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Talks with banks

Sharma urges lenders to speed up business loans

Alok Sharma: ‘money needs to go out faster’

Business Secretary Alok Sharma today said he had spoken to lenders about the slow pace of distributing loans to companies.

New data reveals that only 5,000 small businesses across the UK have received cash under the Treasury’s coronavirus loans scheme more than three weeks since it was launched. Switzerland, by comparison, has delivered 70,000 loans.

Mr Sharma said £800 million has been paid out to 4,200 firms under the Business Interruption Loan Scheme but admitted: “Yes, absolutely more money needs to go out faster.”

He said he has spent the last couple of days talking to banks and other institutions which are part of the scheme. “They have assured me that they are working at pace, with people working over the weekend and talking to customers, making sure they can process these loans as quickly as possible.

“What we have also done is change the scheme and made it more attractive so that all small and medium size businesses with a turnover of up to £45,000 can get support.”

On the scale of the likely downturn in the economy, he said government policies since 2010 have built up resources to support the current measures being put in place to protect businesses.

“There is no doubt there is going to be a short impact in terms of borrowing rates,” he said.

On the health service, he said clear guidance had been set out for those working in care homes, but was unable to give any figures on the number of deaths in such facilities.

His comments follow criticism over provision of equipment to care staff and an accusation by Scottish care homes owner Robert Kilgour that they are treated as ‘second class carers’.

Some staff complain they are having to use plastic bags to protect themselves from the virus.

Mr Sharma said new monitoring measures would be put in place and acknowledged that more protective equipment was required across the health sector.

“There is clearly a need for more gowns and equipment,” he said.

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