Briefing: take-up rates of covid-19 business loans


  • In response to the social distancing and ‘lockdown’ measures put in place to combat covid-19, the chancellor introduced the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS).

  • It was set up to offer loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), for firms with annual turnover of up to £45 million. 80 per cent of the loan is guaranteed by the government, in order to ease the concerns of lenders.

  • While support for SMEs is welcome, there have been concerns that access to cash has been too slow.

  • The financial situation for UK businesses is grave: 59 per cent are estimated to have less than three months’ cash in reserve.[1] This has been exacerbated by the slow approval of loans by the 40 accredited UK lenders.

  • Increasing the guarantee from the government to 100 per cent has been much discussed as a means to speed up access to finance. It may well help, but without changes to the lending criteria, this ambition may not materialise.

  • Other OECD countries can serve as a model for quick approval of loans and limiting potential taxpayer liability. In Switzerland, loans are often paid within 30 minutes.

Click here to read the briefing note


[1] British Chambers of Commerce, BCC Coronavirus Business Impact Tracker: More than 70 per cent of firms surveys have furloughed staff as scheme goes live, 22 April 2020,, (accessed 24 April 2020).

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