- 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. 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.
 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, www.britishchambers.org.uk/news/2020/04/bcc-coronavirus-business-impact-tracker-more-than-70-per-cent-of-firms-surveyed-have-furloughed-staff-as-scheme-goes-live, (accessed 24 April 2020).