David Prosser: The truth is, we got off lightly

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The Independent Online

With this recession having lasted longer than any other modern downturn, the victim tally was always going to be lengthy. But it could have been much worse.

After all, the abiding feature of this slump has been the failure to get the banks lending again. Many small businesses have been caught by the banks' desire to pull in their horns, suffering as overdraft limits were cut or the cost of their finance raised. To its credit, the Government recognised early on that the state would have to intervene where the private sector was no longer willing. Some schemes have been better than others. The enterprise finance scheme, providing state backing for loans to business, has been popular; help for motor manufacturers prepared to embrace green technology less so.

Still, this effort has helped to break the fall of many businesses.

Some 3,000 more companies have gone under in this recession compared to the 1990s. But, in 1991, there were 1.7 million businesses trying to stay afloat in Britain, compared to 2.1 million today. Proportionately, we have got away relatively lightly.