Tight credit holding back UK recovery

Julian Harris
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LENDING remains too low and is “holding back the economic recovery,” the Bank of England said today.

The news comes after the Bank reported that mortgage approvals fell for six successive months to October.

Tight credit conditions continue to hold back recovery in the housing market, analysts say.

Yet banks are ahead of schedule in repaying the loans given to improve their liquidity, according to the Bank’s quarterly report, released today.

The report revealed that £75bn of the £185bn loaned to banks was repaid by the end of November. In September £57bn had been repaid.

The Special Liquidity Scheme (SLS) was launched in April 2008 and expires in January 2012, with the Bank insisting that it will not be extended or replaced.

After three years of support “each institution should be in a position to fund itself through normal market mechanisms,” said the Bank’s Paul Fisher, who also sits on the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).

Banks are expected to reduce their use of the loans in “a smooth fashion,” to avoid a funding crisis in the final months of the loan this time next year.

Yet lending, particularly to small business and individuals, “has remained subdued even as economic activity has begun to recover,” today’s report states.

And low rates of lending are more due to tight credit conditions than a reluctance from businesses and households to borrow, it says.

“Weak lending is more likely to dampen the recovery than weak demand,” it says.

Confidence in the availability of credit has taken a hammering, according to survey conducted for the Bank in September.

Compared to last year, an extra five per cent of people were concerned about the situation. More than one in five people were worried about being denied credit, the survey said.

The “persistent tightening in credit supply” is one of the main policy issues facing the UK, the report says.

“The Bank will continue to monitor developments in bank lending and the banking sector closely.”