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Banks Slow To Take Up Government's Cheap Loans

(c) Sky News 2012

The Bank of England has admitted it is too early to assess the impact of its 'real economy' lending programme, despite a drop in financing costs for banks.

The admission comes as the BoE released details of usage and lending data of the Government's Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS), which started in the summer.

BoE executive director for markets Paul Fisher said: "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."

In the three months to the end of September, net lending of FLS participants was up by £496m, with total FLS from the BoE at £4.4bn.

It said a total of 35 bank and building society groups are now involved in FLS, with more than 80% of the stock of lending going to the real economy.

The scheme was designed to support lenders so they can cut interest rates on loans to residential and small businesses.

Mr Fisher said: "I am confident that the FLS will help the supply of credit.

"The incentives in the scheme are for banks and building societies to cut lending rates and hence lend more to get the cheapest funding."

However, not all banks have taken full advantage of the reduced rate to spur lending.

A number of high street banks and building societies reduced certified total lending in the period, according to BoE figures.

Negative net lending flows for the third quarter included a drop of £3.4bn by Santander (Madrid: SAN.MC - news) , a fall of £2.7bn by Lloyds, a £642m reduction by RBS (LSE: RBS.L - news) and a £23m drop by the Clydesdale Bank.

Meanwhile, Virgin Money boosted third-quarter lending by £598m, Nationwide by £1.8bn, and Barclays (LSE: BARC.L - news) by more than £3.8bn.

FLS was launched on July 13, with an 18-month drawdown period extending to January 2014.

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