British Business Bank scheme reaches £500m loans milestone

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A UK government-backed bank, set up to boost lending to small firms following the financial crisis, has loaned £500m since 2012, official figures show.

New data from Start Up Loans, part of the British Business Bank, shows London has gained a disproportionate share of the funds, with 14,000 of nearly 70,000 start-up firms loaned £118m.

Fewer than 4,000 firms in Scotland have received a loan, with £29m secured.

The scheme is funded by the UK Treasury.

Unwilling lenders

The British Business Bank was given the task of supporting business investment with government funding.

That included giving confidence to other lenders or to provide lending guarantees when the market was unwilling to do so.

Figures from the bank showed 38% of those given support were female, while 53% were unemployed at the time they applied.

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Mechelle Smith’s business now turns over £150,000 a year

Chairman Lord Smith of Kelvin said the success of the scheme could be seen in the relatively low rate of firms that had failed to survive – about a third.

He said: “These people might be good at making instruments or supplying foods, but they’re not bankers, accountants or lawyers, and we hold their hand, and try to explain about business and get them through these early stages.”

‘Doing what I love’

Mechelle Smith of Aberdeen is among those who has benefited from the scheme.

She was made redundant twice while employed in the oil and gas sector. She set up Melt, a cafe specialising in grilled cheese sandwiches.

She said the support she received from the start-up loan scheme helped her reach a £150,000-a-year turnover and create two jobs.

“I’ve always had a passion for cooking, and after being made redundant and attending up to 60 job interviews, I decided enough was enough and it was time to set up my open business doing what I love,” she said.

“Starting a business requires passion and determination. There are many highs but also many lows.”

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