By Max Clarke

A series of lending clinics are being launched across the UK in a bid to increase lending and boost small business confidence.

The clinics launch as recent statistics show that only 15% of businesses applied for borrowing in the last year, reflecting a crisis of confidence among businesses. The research also reveals that while 42% of businesses think they will get a business loan before they apply, 75% actually succeed, indicating that many businesses don’t believe they can get finance.

The first clinic was launched by Barclays Retail and Business Banking Chief Executive Antony Jenkins in Manchester yesterday, and will kick start 85 UK-wide clinics, aiming to reach around 1,600 businesses.

“Confidence will begin to be restored when businesses are equipped with the belief to make informed decisions about their future,” said Antony Jenkins, Chief Executive Barclays Retail and Business Banking.

Business Minister Mark Prisk commented, welcoming the drive by big banks and government to increase lending at a time of continued credit scarcity. Said Prisk:

"Businesses are sometimes put off from talking to the banks about their borrowing needs. If the vital flow of finance to small firms is to be improved, trust between banks and businesses must be restored.

"The Government wants to see an open dialogue between banks and British businesses, supporting entrepreneurs who want to invest and create new jobs. We support any initiative which could help make this happen and I hope businesses will make full use of this opportunity."

Barclays' business people will answer key questions on lending and walk businesses through the loan application process, with alternative finance providers on-hand to provide a fully rounded picture of all the financial options available. At the same time, local businesses will have the opportunity to tackle senior bank leaders head-on about the barriers to borrowing that they feel they face.

Barclays continues to lend and approves a new loan every four minutes, and in the first six months of the year committed over £7bn in lending to UK smaller businesses. At the same time, the balance of deposits held in small enterprise current accounts increased significantly suggesting a lack of confidence by businesses to invest.

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