Banks challenge findings of small business survey

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The Independent Online
HIGH STREET banks hit back yesterday at a small business survey that claims they are offering worse value for money than in 1990, despite the introduction of a code of practice designed to improve the relationship, writes John Willcock.

The survey of 5,600 small firms by the Forum of Private Businesses found that bank charges were by far the most common cause for complaint.

Businesses were asked to rank value for money from bank charges on a scale of one to five, with the highest number representing the best value. The average score fell to 2.39, down from 2.59 two years ago and 2.91 in 1990, at the nadir of the recession.

The second most common complaint was the level of interest rates levied on loans, followed by growing fears that banks would withdraw their lending facilities.

The British Bankers' Association, which represents all the high street banks, welcomed the research by the University of Nottingham, but challenged two 'misconceptions' - that all small businesses were in debt and that banks were restricting economic recovery by holding back lending.

'These are misconceptions because, in fact, two-thirds of all small businesses operate in credit at any one time, so the issues of interest margins, collateral and reduction of facilities are not problems for the majority.'