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Funding For Lending Scheme 'Is Working', Bank Of England Claims

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Banks are lending, insists the Bank of England | Alamy

The Bank of England has said there are signs that banks are starting to lend more cash to struggling businesses and households.

Borrowing rates are beginning to come down, the Bank said, but it may be 18 months before the full effect of its £80bn Funding for Lending scheme is felt as wider global economic troubles continue to weigh on markets.

The Bank confirmed 13 banks and building societies - making up 73% of UK lending - have signed up to the programme, which started in August.

The Royal Bank of Scotland announced earlier this month it intended to use the Funding for Lending scheme to boost its Manufacturing Fund for small and medium sized businesses. It also used it to cut rates for mortgages.

Lloyds also confirmed last week it had drawn down £1bn from the Bank of England and would start lending the money out within the coming weeks.

HSBC has not joined the scheme, as it uses deposits from retail customers to lend - although it said it had not ruled out signing up in the future.

Speaking at Richmond University, Bank of England executive director for markets Paul Fisher said he was "confident" the scheme would help boost the supply of credit in the UK after early encouraging signs since its launch.

Fisher said: "Since the scheme was announced we have seen widespread falls in funding costs across different sources and an equally wide variety of lending rate reductions."

He added: "Before its introduction, it was more likely than not that the stock of credit would contract further over the next 18 months. Perhaps it still may. But any return to positive credit growth would be a better outcome than we could have previously hoped for."

Figures out on Tuesday from the British Bankers' Association (BBA) also showed mixed signs of improvement, with mortgage approvals rising slightly between July and August from 29,000 to 30,533 last month, but falling by 13% in August compared with August 2011.

The Press Association also reported that the Bank of England will release a league table of bank net lending each quarter to show how the banks have been performing since the launch of the scheme.

Mr Fisher said the publication of bank-by-bank lending details would intensify pressure on banks to lend more, but added that shareholders of Britain's banks should also urge management to use the scheme.

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