Businesses in north missing out on key government loan scheme
THOUSANDS of small businesses in Northern Ireland are missing out on the government's Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG) scheme, after they received just 1 per cent of the total lent through the scheme in the past year, down from 1.5% in the previous year.
A report carried out for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) reveals Northern Ireland accounted for just £42.4 million of the £3 billion lent through the scheme in 2017.
And it had the lowest ratio of EFG loans of all the UK regions, with 23.8 loans per 10,000 businesses - compared to 54.5 in Wales and 60.1 in Scotland.
But Jon Salisbury, managing director of commercial lending specialists Ortus Secured Finance, which is currently actively lending in Northern Ireland, says the figures don't tally with his experience in the local marketplace.
“I am surprised at the low uptake of the scheme here, given the entrepreneurial culture and demand we've seen for finance here in the last two years,” he said.
“Perhaps businesses are missing out from EFG funding because they are unaware they are eligible for support. Some may not even be aware of the existence of the scheme or that it is available in Northern Ireland. It may also be the case that some of the participating banks are still hesitant to lend.”
He adds that no matter the reason for the scheme's apparent lack of success in the north, ensuring businesses can access finance is critically important for a flourishing local economy.
“Ortus has issued loan offers totalling more than £200 million to Northern Irish businesses since launching here in late 2015 and there are ample opportunities for lenders like ourselves to continue to help SMEs looking for the funding they need to grow,” Mr Salisbury added.
Introduced in 2009 in response to the credit crunch, the EFG sees the Treasury act as guarantor on 75 per cent of individual bank loans between £1,000 and £1 million to small and medium sized firms finding it hard to access a commercial loan.