Small firms see no effect from Merlin as banks sign up to new lending code

THE UK’s major lenders have gone on the offensive to convince small businesses that they are freeing up credit, signing up to a new lending code and launching a website to help businesses access loans.

But a survey of 500 small businesses released yesterday showed that 75 per cent of respondents have seen no change in banks’ attitude since the government rolled out Project Merlin, a deal between the banks and the treasury in which they promised to increase credit available for small firms by 15 per cent this year.

Just over 40 per cent of those queried by Hotfrog, an international small business directory site, said they were most likely to use personal savings to expand their business.

A new lending code and website launched by the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) and supported by Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC and RBS, promises to give small enterprises a chance to appeal if they believe their request for credit has been unfairly refused.

The appeal will be judged by another individual at the bank who has not previously been involved in the case, with former CBI small business council chair Russel Griggs appointed to produce an annual report on the effectiveness of the new code. The BBA is now embarking upon a roadshow to promote the new website.