By Marcus Leach

A scheme aimed at helping small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) has been launched by the UK's leading five banks.

The scheme, backed by Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC, Barclays, Santander and Royal Bank of Scotland, is aimed at offering SMEs more support on issues such as finance, marketing and HR.

Volunteers have been recruited by the banks, comprising of current and retired employees, to take part in the scheme set up by the business task force.

Lately British banks have come under fire for not lending SMEs enough, despite Project Merlin, which is aimed at specifically lending to SMEs.

Bank of England figures show that in the first three months of 2011, the top five UK banks loaned £16.8 billion to SMEs, which is short of the £19 billion they should have lent.

But Stephen Pegg, director at Lloyds Banking Group, told the BBC there was finance available and this scheme would help businesses gain access to it.

"Having a bit of financial input, someone to ask the right questions... helps you put together better lending propositions so actually that finance can get out there and businesses can be encouraged to have the confidence to invest and the contacts to look at a wider range of finance," Stephen Pegg, director at Lloyds Banking Group, told the BBC.

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