‘Bounce Back’ Scheme Issues £20 billion to Small Companies

SMEs in the UK have received £21.3 billion under the government’s Bounce Back loans scheme, despite fears that a large proportion of these loans may ‘go bad’.

This figure marks the Bounce Back programme as easily the most popular form of COVID-19 support offered to SMEs by the UK government, more than doubling the combined total lent under HMT’s two other support programmes.

Launched last month following complaints that the government’s coronavirus business interruption loans (CBILS) were being issued too slowly, the Bounce Back loans application process features only minimal background checks against money laundering and fraud in order to ensure a faster process. Unlike CBILs, which are only 80% guaranteed by the state, Bounce Back loans are backed 100%.

However, the light restrictions of the scheme have come under criticism by some as insufficient to prevent loans from going bad. Senior bankers interviewed by the Financial Times estimated that between 40% and 50% of those receiving the loans may default on the debt.

As these loans are entirely guaranteed by the state, a surge of defaults would mean UK taxpayers footing the bill.

Stephen Jones, head of UK Finance and former CFO of Santander, said: “It’s important to remember that any lending provided under government-backed schemes is a debt not a grant, and so firms should carefully consider their ability to repay before applying.”

Tuesday’s figures also revealed that 700,000 out of the 870,000 applicants to the Bounce Back scheme have been granted loans. A further 45,000 businesses have borrowed a cumulative £8.9 billion under the CBIL scheme, and 191 companies have borrowed a cumulative £1.1bn under the coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme.

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