Lord Mandelson pledges £1m loans for SMEs at Cumbria Summit

Michael Hunt

Lord Peter Mandelson has announced the Government has agreed to underwrite 400 bank loans to small medium enterprises today at the Cumbria Economic Summit 2009.

He said it is more than a £1m a day and more than £1bn will still be available for viable small businesses in trouble.

Since the launch of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee five weeks ago, some 400 loans worth more than £40m have already been offered and are being processed, he said.

Demand and awareness of the scheme continues to grow steadily since the launch in January, with £14m in loans processed in the past week alone. The scheme is on course to guarantee an additional £1.3bn of lending to smaller firms over the year.

Speaking at the Sellafield Visitor Centre in Cumbria, Lord Mandelson said: "These figures show the Enterprise Finance Guarantee is already making a difference to businesses. This targeted support is already helping hundreds of firms which would not have been able to secure finance without a government guarantee.

"Inevitably it takes time for schemes to take effect but the amount already lent, in only a matter of weeks, is good news for business. We will continue to work with banks to ensure individual branches are offering the guarantee and will continue to promote the scheme to small businesses across the country."

However, Lord Mandelson warned the scheme was not a government grant or bail-out and was firmly targeted at fundamentally viable businesses which may be struggling in the short term, but which ultimately will be able to repay their loans.

The Government also announced it had started a "mystery shopping" exercise to test that frontline bank staff around the UK are receiving the information they need to promote the guarantee to viable customers.

Environment and future energy supply was also a major theme being addressed by Lord Mandelson today.

He added: "Everyone recognises that driving Cumbria's low carbon future will take a combination of building on existing strengths and attracting new investment, probably from abroad. But you are starting from a good base.

"There are over 5,000 companies now operating in the low carbon and environmental sector in the North West, as a whole, employing around 86,000 people.

"It was recently confirmed that Sellafield will be nominated as a potential site for new nuclear build. We need to use this, and the decommissioning and cleanup work for the existing facilities, as a catalyst for making the region a base from which companies can develop expertise in civil nuclear management and win contracts throughout the UK and around the world."

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