This week, as small businesses prepare for an impending recession, the Treasury will unveil its £6 billion replacement for the Recovery Loan Scheme.
The new business loan guarantee program, also known as RLS2, is anticipated to get approval from Treasury and the business department in the coming days.
The new corporate loan guarantee plan seeks to give up to £3 billion in debt over two years, although it will be less generous than the original Recovery Loan Scheme.
The original Covid loan programs provided around £80 million in loans to SMEs, while the Recovery Loan Scheme only provided £1 billion.
The original Recovery Loan Scheme, which provided a 70% government guarantee for loans of up to £2 million to small and medium-sized enterprises, expired on June 30 and left businesses that needed borrowing in a bind.
According to statistics from the Federation of Small Firms (FSB), lending to small businesses is at an all-time low, with just 43% of applications being granted.
Additionally, fewer small firms are requesting financing. The fewest applicants (9%) since the FSB began keeping track of SME credit applied in the first quarter of 2022.
According to a government source who spoke to the Daily Telegraph, the delay in RLS2 was caused by measures to tighten fraud safeguards in the wake of the loss of billions of pounds in Covid funding.
In arrears on 12% of Bounce Back Loans
Only today did it become public that around 200,000 small firms are behind on their Bounce Back Loan repayments, almost twice as many as the government had officially acknowledged in September.
The British Business Bank, which oversaw the Bounce Back Loan program, received a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act from Purbeck Personal Guarantee Insurance.
As of June 27, 193,377 businesses have not completed their payback obligations.
This is equivalent to £5.7 billion in unpaid debt and 12% of the 1.6 million small companies who took out a Bounce Back Loan.
151,587 of those in arrears are behind on their payments by more than 90 days, which is often seen as the threshold for being in extreme financial hardship. They still owe £4.5 billion.
According to official estimates, fraud may result in the loss of £4.9 billion in bounce-back loans.
“The ease with which company owners and directors were able to get Bounce Back Loans, with six years to pay off the debt, no personal guarantees, and no fees, may have come back to bite the UK government, which is now facing the potential of up to £5.5bn lost to the program in arrears, fees, and interest,” said Todd Davison, managing director of Purbeck Personal Guarantee Insurance.
The British Business Bank, however, told The Times that as of March 2022, over 85% of facilities across the three Covid loan schemes — Bounce Back, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBIL), and the CBILS scheme for larger companies — had either been fully repaid or were making the required monthly payments.
The BBB will provide more recent information on official repayment rates within the next month.