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Government-backed coronavirus interruption loans hit £5.5bn

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak arrives in Downing Street as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, April 6, 2020. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak. (Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

Government-backed coronavirus business interruption loans (CBILs) to small businesses have reached £5.5bn ($6.8bn), new figures show.

Industry group UK Finance said on Thursday that the 63 lenders approved to write CBILs had now lent £5.5bn to small and medium sized businesses since the scheme was launched. It means £1.4bn has been lent under the scheme over the last week.

8,550 loans were approved in the last seven days, taking the total to 33,812. Lenders have received 62,674 completed applications so far.

READ MORE: Government-backed small business loans hit £4bn

The CBIL scheme was launched in March by chancellor Rishi Sunak to support small businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the scheme, the state guarantees 80% of the value of loans up to £5m to encourage lending to businesses.

The scheme has been criticised for being too slow. Banks still run full affordability and viability checks on customers, which critics say is too time consuming.

“Although the steady improvement in the number of firms accessing CBILS is welcome, with many firms only having a few months' cash in reserve, the pace of delivery remains disappointingly slow,” the British Chamber of Commerce’s Head of Economics Suren Thiru said in response to Thursday’s figures.

Sunak last week announced a new scheme to support Britain’s smallest businesses, ‘Bounce Back’ loans. Under the scheme, which launched on Monday (4 May), the state guarantees 100% of loans up to £50,000 and requires far fewer checks.

READ MORE: Banks approve £2bn 'Bounce Back' loans in first 24 hours

Figures released by the Treasury earlier this week show £2bn-worth of 'Bounce Back' loans were approved in just the first 24 hours of the scheme’s operation.

“The current template for Bounce Back loans could be used the improve the provision of the CBIL scheme, including adopting an easier and more consistent application process,” Thiru said.

“Government must also be ready to further expand the existing grant schemes to ensure that as many businesses as possible get access to the support they need.”

UK Finance chief executive Stephen Jones said in a statement: “Bank staff have worked tirelessly over the past week to provide businesses with the finance they need, delivering another £1.4bn of lending under the CBIL scheme, on top of over £2bn in Bounce Back Loans targeted at smaller firms and sole traders.

“This forms part of the industry’s broad package of tailored support for SMEs, with thousands of other businesses having their existing overdrafts increased, accessing new loans and asset-based finance or receiving capital repayment holidays on existing facilities.”