Bank lending up on back of state aid plan

Tim Wallace
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BANK lending increased in August and September after the funding for lending scheme (FLS) got underway, according to Bank of England figures published yesterday.

So far £4.36bn has been drawn down from the facility, with six of the 35 banks that have signed up taking money in the first two months.

Overall lending to the private sector increased by £496m in the period, while a price war emerged in the mortgage market and interest rates on loans to small firms were slashed.

Barclays led the way, taking £1bn from the scheme and increasing its lending by £3.8bn, or two per cent of its stock of lending to firms and households.

The three other big banks taking part – Santander and state-backed RBS and Lloyds – all took funds from the scheme but saw lending continue to fall.

RBS and Lloyds are both shrinking non-core assets hitting overall lending, and insisted they had increased credit in the core business including both households and businesses.

Meanwhile Santander is in the process of shrinking its mortgage loan book and rebalancing towards small firms.

But a spokesperson said that decline in mortgage lending was slowed by the FLS cash, meaning the scheme has had an impact even though net lending by the bank fell.

Over the New Year participating banks will be evaluated, and those who have reduced total lending will see the price of government funding increase.

Even some banks that did not take any funding increased lending, in part because the scheme has had an impact on the wider lending market.

The scheme is expected to have a bigger impact going forwards – Lloyds for example is preparing to take another £2bn from the Bank of England, while it typically takes three months to process a mortgage application, so figures from the first two months of FLS will not yet show whether a wider increase in lending is taking place.

HSBC has not signed up to take part, maintaining its strong depositor base provides cheaper funding than the Bank of England is offering.