Vince Cable's announcement that small businesses are to be awarded £110 million of funding is nothing new.
It was essentially a re-announcement, disguised as an announcement, and just a note on who got the money. Disingenuous to say the least!
It's no secret that I'm one of the Government's biggest supporters, but that doesn't mean I'm some kind of Pavlovian dog when it comes to everything they try to do to get money to businesses.
What we need is a proper business bank. This is something I've been pushing for for years, pretty much since the banks' response to their own irresponsible gambling was to stop lending to small businesses, followed by an attempt to imply that it was us who pulled down their house of cards. Apparently lending to small businesses is too high a risk. A real case of 2+2=7 logic, if ever I heard one, and from the guys who are supposed to be good at judging risk!
This is why since 2008 we have desperately needed a business bank designed to channel money from the government to those who need it to help their company's business succeed or even survive. This would have really helped the economy, enabling people to grow their businesses. I say needed, since history tells us that it would have been a much better plan than shovelling billions into the banks via quantitative easing, and expecting them to lend it responsibly to those who needed it. Okay, QA wasn't a complete failure, and may well have been what has kept us afloat in the post banking collapse era, but it certainly didn't do the SME community any favours.
So what is anti-business secretary Vince Cable's reaction to this desperate need? Well it seems there will be a Business Bank, although the details are still a bit sketchy, and the opening hours are completely rubbish - mostly because they don't even start until 2014.
In the meantime there's the Business Finance Partnership, where the government puts up some money and the private sector matches it, with the idea being that the money gets leant to SMEs. Job done. Or so you might think.
But it now seems things are not so simple. For some reason there's a middleman in this scheme. There's always a middleman! Why do we need a middleman... go figure!
All I know it there are these firms called 'peer-to-peer lenders', who get the money, and it's their job to hand it out to the 'deserving' - Zopra (10 million); BOOST&Co (£20 million); Funding Circle (£20 million), and Credit Asset Management Limited (£5 million).
I don't know much about these companies, except I'm pretty sure they're not social agencies staffed by volunteers, and it's hard to see how they will streamline the efficient lending of much needed cash to small and medium sized businesses. In fact it looks like the birth of a new industry to me.
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