Finance Minister Simon Hamilton MLA and Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster today announced that they have established an Access to Finance Implementation Panel.
Simon Hamilton said: “This Panel will put a new focus on banking and access to finance issues here, particularly business lending. For some time now we have been faced with a situation where banks have been saying that they have money to lend but that there is no demand, and where many businesses are saying they cannot get the money they need to invest and grow.
“We also know that many of the schemes that have been put in place to help are not working as well as they might do. It all adds up to a situation where constrained business lending is impeding our economic recovery. This Panel will bring independent eyes to this. We have asked it to tell it to us exactly as they see it. It will work with us, the banks and the business bodies to progress the issues associated with access to finance that we have identified.”
Arlene Foster added: “Establishing this Panel was a key recommendation of the Economic Advisory Group (EAG) in their ‘Review of Access to Finance for NI Businesses’ report and an important part of the Panel’s work will be to oversee the implementation of the other EAG recommendations.
“I am delighted that Professor Russel Griggs, Independent Reviewer of the UK Banking Appeals Process, has agreed to Chair the Panel whose other members include John Trethowan, Head of the Credit Review Office in the Republic of Ireland and Non-Executive Director of Progressive Building Society, as well as Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce (NICC). The members of this Panel bring with them a wealth of knowledge and expertise on banking issues both in GB and Northern Ireland, as well as in the Republic of Ireland. Ann McGregor also ensures there is a detailed understanding of the current challenges facing local businesses, and in particular SMEs, in accessing finance.”
Simon Hamilton concluded: “I stated when I took office that I wanted to put a renewed focus on banking issues. The creation of this Panel and the Joint Ministerial Taskforce on banking that was established as part of the ‘Building a Prosperous and United Community’ economic pact will be key elements of this.
“The Panel has already held their first meeting and Arlene Foster and I look forward to meeting with them in early December to discuss their plans for taking their work in this vitally important area forward.”
Notes to editors:
1. The Terms of Reference for the Access to Finance Implementation Panel are that it will work with government, banks and business bodies to progress issues associated with Access to Finance for Northern Ireland businesses. In particular, the Panel will be tasked with providing strategic oversight of Access to Finance drawing on best practice nationally and internationally. The Panel will also assist the Executive by overseeing the implementation of the Action Plan agreed by Ministers to implement the recommendations set out in the Economic Advisory Group (EAG) report entitled ‘Review of Access to Finance for NI Businesses’ published in March 2013 and the actions flowing from the Economic Pact. The Objectives of the Panel are to:
· Advise Ministers on what more may be needed to ensure sufficient Access to Finance is available at reasonable terms for businesses in Northern Ireland;
· Act as a central liaison point for government, banks and business bodies on Access to Finance issues;
· Agree, and oversee implementation of, a Ministerial action plan and other actions considered necessary to address the issue of Access to Finance for Northern Ireland businesses;
· Commission further research on Access to Finance issues where appropriate;
· Provide advice and report on progress to the Ministers for Finance and Personnel and Enterprise, Trade and Investment; and
· Publish an annual report on progress towards implementation of the Panel’s agreed action plan.