The CBI has clearly been active in lobbying for small businesses through the credit crisis. According to its Enterprise Team, the CBI attended a "frank" roundtable discussion on the cost and availability of credit to SMEs. This event, said the team, "developed greater understanding of the difficult trading conditions under which both sectors are operating and the structure of the government’s proposed Small Business Finance Scheme to be launched in January." Our own soundings on the cost and availabililty of credit among SMEs can be summarised roughly thus: the banks insist they are open for business; however, some sectors are no-go areas (retail, property are two obvious ones); and rates are still high. The CBI also drew attention to the steps taken so far by the high-street banks to help their SME customers. Some of these sound useful, but you may feel otherwise. Please let us have your views: Among other assurances, NatWest and RBS pledged not to increase pricing on committed overdrafts. For more information see the press release. Lloyds TSB launched a six point charter for small businesses, including a commitment to pass on, in full, base rate reductions in 2008 and 2009. HSBC created a $5billion global working capital fund to help fundamentally sound SMEs weather short-term shocks caused by the recession. Barclays committed to making a further £1.5bn available to SMEs in 2009 and will make available its CreditFocus service free of charge to all UK small businesses, whether or not they are a Barclays customer.
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