Shoring up recovery

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The Independent Online
AS IF banks did not have enough on their plates dealing with the complaints of small businesses, they have been alerted by another group hard-hit by the recession - builders, writes Roger Trapp.

Their concern centres on what happens when the recovery comes. The Chartered Institute of Building, which represents 33,000 building managers in some of Britain's largest construction companies, fears that banks and building societies will follow past practice by 'pulling the plug' on companies when sentiment improves and land prices begin to rise again, because they feel they can recoup something of their investment quickly.

To pre-empt this, the institute has set up a campaign called 'Bank Watch'. The idea is that members will do just that and let the organisation know how they are being treated as trading conditions change.

Coming after last year's lobby of the Government by the construction industry, the initiative can be seen as a further sign of the sector's keenness to change ministers' view of the business environment.

'Banks are commercial organisations with their own shareholders. None the less, we feel we can work with them,' said a spokesman, alluding to the partnership concept that has improved as the downturn has deepened.

Launching the campaign earlier this month, Keith Banbury, the institute's chief executive, said the situation of foreclosures rising hand-in-hand with land prices would return 'if the banks make attempts to get money back without any thought to the long term. We want the banks to recognise that this is an issue they can do something about.'

And if they do not, he wants to know. Calls to the Bank Watch hot line will be treated as confidential, but the information will be analysed to gain a clearer understanding of banking policy.

The Government will be urged to adopt a long-term view of the construction industry, and other industry groups will be asked for support.

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