Coronavirus loans to Suffolk firms increase - but more needs to be done, warn business leaders

Essex Police are investigating incidents where elderly people have been approached by suspects prete

Essex Police are investigating incidents where elderly people have been approached by suspects pretending to be from Barclays Bank. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The number of loans to help Suffolk firms cope with the coronavirus crisis are increasing - but more still needs to be done to support under-pressure companies, county business leaders have warned.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s seventh weekly survey, conducted on April 22, found that businesses have started to receive grants from the £213m pot given to local authorities by central government.

Coronavirus is now affecting 99% of firms, the results of the survey with respondents show.

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The impact of this money is starting to be felt, with the number of firms fearing they will be forced to close because of coronavirus falling from 39% four weeks ago to 30% this week.

The number of businesses worried about a loss of income has also fallen, from a high of 92% two weeks ago to 84% this week.

However, businesses are still struggling to access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), with some businesses waiting up to two weeks for their application to be acknowledged.

A respondent to the survey said “Everything has worked apart from CBILS.”

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Another said: “The bank is very slow with our loan.”

Andy Walker, Suffolk Chamber’s head of policy, said: “The banks are increasing the number of loans being provided to businesses which is welcome, but it’s clear that the process could still be made easier.

“Businesses are facing various challenges and the delay and difficulty of CBILS just adds to the stress of business owners, worried about how long they might already have left.

“We will use these findings to work with our local MPs to press UK Finance and the banks to help businesses as much as we can during this incredibly difficult time.”

CBILS, which currently sees the government back 80% of a bank loan to small or medium businesses, has also been criticised by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

It has called for fast and simple access to loans under £25,000 for small businesses who may be completely new to borrowing, possibly backed by a 100% government guarantee.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI’s director general, said: “This is a race against time, and the only winning strategy is scale, speed and simplicity.

“The greater the number of companies helped to survive, the sooner the UK economy can restart and revive.”

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