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A Second Open Letter To The Chancellor

Published on 22nd April 2020

Rangewell calls for immediate and real-time improvements in the clarity and transparency of the Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

Rangewell has written to The Chancellor of Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, a second time calling for immediate improvements in the transparency of the Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

There is currently no way to independently monitor the success, or otherwise, of the CBIL Scheme.

We believe there should be real-time weekly reporting on the facts and figures - not summaries months later.

Rapid testing and real-time data is the key to reacting to the Coronavirus Pandemic. This is just as true when monitoring its economic effects.

The British Business Bank already holds the information being requested and should release the information weekly via Open Data, and real-time information on CBILS will allow Government departments, banks, other lenders, trade associations, local authorities and others to monitor, in real-time, which business sectors and regions may need more bespoke support. 

22nd April 2020

Dear Chancellor,

In late March we asked you to open up the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to a wider range of alternative lenders, fintechs and business finance platforms - and it’s great to see that happen as well as seeing countries around the world also realising the importance of ensuring a breadth of lenders being available to support SMEs.

Now we’re asking for something even more important.

It’s time to bring clarity and transparency to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Rangewell are busy helping a whole range of businesses work through the process of accessing funds from the CBIL Scheme and, on the whole, have been incredibly impressed with the dedication and hard work of the Local Bank Managers actually implementing what is a complex scheme.

It’s also important to realise that this is a Government Scheme that is being implemented by the banks - lenders in the Scheme are having to follow strict guidelines from the government with regard to eligibility and follow normal “Responsible Lender” practices with regards to affordability - in many cases, they are being trapped between a rock and a hard place.

There are a lot of different “facts and figures” flying around regarding the number of applications, success rates per lender and the reasons for applications being rejected - this is causing confusion amongst potential borrowers and may be putting many SMEs off from applying to the Scheme.

It is difficult to tell how diverse the lending is to date - our sense is that some regions may not be getting a fair share of the Scheme’s proceeds.

We also remain worried that many business sectors are not able to access the CBIL Scheme. Bank lending has never been suitable for all business sectors - the sooner we have clarity on sectors that need additional help the quicker The Treasury can spot weaknesses and react quickly.

To reduce the confusion and increase clarity, we’re asking you, with immediate effect, to mandate The British Business Bank to publish on a real-time, weekly basis for each approved lender:

  1. The number and monetary value of applications the lender has received.
  2. The number and monetary value of applications the lender has credit approved.
  3. The number and monetary value of applications the lender has paid out on.
  4. Provide standardised reasoning across lenders with regard to the reasons applications are being rejected.

This will allow a clear “apples with apples” comparison across the whole CBIL Scheme. 

Furthermore, to allow you to identify regions and sectors that need additional support, we also ask that you mandate The British Business Bank, again with immediate effect, to provide, on a loan-by-loan basis, anonymised data (redacted in cases where volumes are low to preserve customer confidentiality) for the following:

  1. The SIC Sector Code of each successful and rejected application.
  2. The postcode of each successful and rejected application.

All the above information is already being collated and is readily available and reportable.

UK Finance already publishes quarterly SME lending figures and trends on a postcode by postcode basis as part of their commitment to being transparent about the geographical spread of lending across the UK. 

The British Business Bank is already collating detailed information of each CBILS loan application

With the clarity and transparency that such reporting would bring, The Treasury, The Bank of England and others will be able to react much more quickly to the facts on the ground and monitor, in real-time, which sectors and regions need more bespoke support.

As the Chief Scientific Officer tells us daily, rapid testing and real-time data is the key to reacting to the coronavirus pandemic. This is just as true when monitoring its economic effects - real-time data on the CBIL Scheme will promote successes, encouraging businesses to apply, as well as highlighting pinch points allowing the Government to take prompt action.

Yours sincerely,

Rangewell


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