New lending plummets

The number of new mortgages approved by UK banks has slumped dramatically, a further sign of the impact of the credit crunch.

The British Bankers' Association (BBA) said just 35,417 new mortgages had been agreed for house purchases in March, down nearly a fifth on February. More starkly, the number of mortgages taken out was 46 per cent down on March 2007, representing the lowest monthly total since September 1997.

The BBA's spokes-man, David Dooks, laid the blame for the fall in approvals on the credit crunch, saying: "Reduced product ranges and tighter [lending] criteria resulted in significantly fewer loan approvals." But he added: "Pressures on personal finances are also con-straining demand, not only for mortgages but for personal loans and borrowing on cards."

Last week, the Bank of England announced plans to inject at least £50bn into the banking system to free up lending between banks. It is hoped this will then allow more customers to obtain mortgages.