Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Banks quizzed over 'NI credit snub'

A top UK banking representative has faced intense criticism from Assembly members over credit claims

A top UK banking representative has faced intense criticism from Assembly members amid claims Northern Ireland businesses continue to go under after failing to obtain credit.

But Eric Leenders from the British Bankers Association insisted that local banks were lending more to business owners.

The Executive Director of retail lending with the banks' representative group told a special joint Assembly committee hearing that new evidence showed that the cost of borrowing was also improving.

Mr Leenders faced an hour-and-a-half of questions in Parliament Buildings over the policies of the local banks during the recession.

SDLP Alban Maginness queried his insistence that the institutions were making sufficient credit available.

He said: "I don't think you are picking up the main point that is being made and that is the experience of politicians is the banks aren't lending either in sufficient quantities in terms of money, or alternatively they are lending on unfavourable or extremely difficult terms to their clients who are small businesses."

The senior executive said bank figures suggested otherwise.

"I think they demonstrate a very high proportion of loans applied for are in fact provided and that there is a flow of credit to small businesses," he said.

"Now that won't be a universal flow of credit because naturally in a recession some businesses will no longer become viable in the context of bankable propositions but at the same time I fall back on the statistics which show that large number of applications are actually being agreed."

The Finance and Personnel committee and Enterprise, Trade and Investment committee are holding a joint investigation into banking issues.

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