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UK Politics

£500m borrowed by businesses and households in new Bank of England scheme

The scheme was launched over the summer to offer lenders funding at low interest rates on condition it is passed on to households and businesses

Businesses and households have borrowed a net £500 million in the first three months of a new Bank of England scheme designed to unclog the flow of credit in the UK.

A total of 35 lenders, including most of Britain's biggest banks, have signed up to the Bank's Funding for Lending scheme (FLS) and have drawn down £4.4 billion between July and September.

The scheme was launched over the summer by the Bank and Treasury to offer lenders funding at low interest rates on condition it is passed on to households and businesses.

Alan Clarke, economist at Scotiabank, said the FLS take-up had been "encouraging" and added: "Quite whether it kick starts the chain reaction that is required to get the economy going is less clear. Nonetheless, it is a case of so far so good with regards to the take-up of the scheme."

Paul Fisher, executive director for markets at the Bank, said: "I am confident that the FLS will help the supply of credit."

He added: "Since the scheme was announced we have seen widespread falls in funding costs across different sources and an equally wide variety of lending rate reductions.

"But it is too early to use these data as a reliable indication of the impact of the FLS on lending volumes."

The figures showed that net lending by four major high street banks - Lloyds Banking Group, RBS, Santander and Co-op - had fallen in the three-month period.

But other banks, including Barclays, boosted net lending between July and September.

RBS said it has used the FLS scheme to cut interest rates on small business lending by up to 1.7% to as low as 3%, as well as removing arrangement fees.

A statement from the 80% state-owned lender said: "We will continue to offer these attractive rates to send a clear message that RBS is open for business."

Fellow taxpayer-backed lender Lloyds Banking Group said it intends to apply to draw a further £2 billion under the scheme, following an initial £1 billion drawdown in September.

Lloyds chief executive Antonio Horta Osorio said: "Lloyds was the first bank to access the Funding for Lending scheme and we have passed on the benefits of this lower funding in full, in particular focusing on first-time buyers and small businesses, where it will make the most economic impact."

The Bank recently said the FLS is helping homeowners but is yet to have an impact on businesses.

The Bank said some business lenders were still "tightening terms" despite the launch of the scheme and it has had "a more immediate impact" on the availability of mortgage approvals.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury Sajid Javid said: "It's still early in the life of the scheme, but Funding for Lending has already helped to deliver half a billion in loans for households and businesses. Though it will take time to fully feed through, today's positive data shows participating banks are increasing their lending."

Labour Treasury spokesman Chris Leslie said: "It's disappointing that the Funding for Lending scheme has not yet had more impact. In the last quarter, overall net lending is up by less than £500 million and the Bank of England's figures show that net lending to businesses actually fell by £3.3 billion.

"The Chancellor must set out in his Autumn Statement how he will finally boost net lending to small and medium-sized firms, which is vital if we are to get our economy moving. This should include making immediate changes to the Funding for Lending scheme to encourage lending to small firms.

"And it's time the Government listened to Labour's calls for a British Investment Bank that's properly backed by the Treasury and not just a re-badging of existing schemes."