Government enterprise tsar Lord Alan Sugar, who was speaking at an event in Manchester this week, was highly dismissive of complaints over bank lending to small businesses. He reportedly referred to business owners as “moaners” and claimed 85 per cent of those who believed they had been unfairly treated had no grounds for complaint. He also claimed many concerns over lending were down to younger business owners, who had only ever known the “Disney World” credit conditions of the past decade. Phil Orford, the chief executive of the Forum of Private Business, says Lord Sugar’s remarks were “misguided” and showed a “worryingly dismissive” attitude to small firms. “Lord Sugar’s comments were quite insensitive and completely erroneous on several points,” says Orford. “Contrary to Lord Sugar’s comments about younger entrepreneurs harbouring unrealistic expectations about credit, I can tell him that many of our members are similar in age to him – they are in their fifties and sixties and they have lived through several recessions. They are still deeply unhappy with the restrictive lending conditions and the increased lending costs which have been imposed on them over the past 12 months. “Secondly, his view that banks should be free to do what they please and shouldn’t be lectured to by the government misses the point,” he continues. “The financial bail-out used a vast amount of taxpayers’ cash and we will all be paying the price for years to come through higher taxes and public spending cuts. So it’s not surprising if business owners feel as though they should be seeing a little more support from the very institutions they helped to save from collapse.” Orford adds: “Lord Sugar is of course a celebrated rags-to-riches success story who started his business empire from his family’s East End flat. But perhaps his £700m fortune has dulled his memories of running a small firm and lessened his understanding of the very people the government hired him to represent.”
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