Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster in loans plea to banks

The Enterprise Minister has called on banks to help the economy by starting to lend to businesses here.

Arlene Foster was answering questions in the Assembly about reports published by banks on the economy.

"It does frustrate me when I hear banks talking about the lack of confidence in the small to medium size enterprises throughout Northern Ireland," she said.

"Well, who is causing that lack of confidence? It is the banks causing that lack of confidence."

The minister said it was time that banks helped the Executive and the economy by starting to lend money.

Northern Ireland has suffered a sharp decline in business activity, sparking fears of more job losses.

Research released by Ulster Bank showed a slump in the private sector, with October activity figures recording the sharpest drop in three months.

The decline continues a downward trend which has effectively lasted for 35 months and comes despite growth in the overall UK economy.

Chief economist for Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, Richard Ramsey said the data pointed to the prospect of further unemployment.

"Whilst the October survey saw the UK post its strongest rate of growth in three months, Northern Ireland's private sector firms reported their sharpest rate of decline over the same period," he said. "This highlights that the two economies continue to move in opposite directions."