By Marcus Leach

A survey has suggested that UK manufacturers are, for the first time since the start of the recession, beginning to find access to bank credit easier.

Manufacturing group EEF said the same proportion of small companies reported a rise in credit availability as reported a fall in April and May, an improvement on the previous two months.

It was not all good news though, as manufacturers said the cost of borrowing remained a problem.

Data released last week confirmed that the banks were nearly £3 billion behind targets for lending to small to medium sized businesses (SMEs).

For the first three months of 2011 the leading five banks loaned a total of £16.8 billion, although the agreed quarterly target is £19 billion.

However, the Bank also reported that gross lending to all companies in the quarter was £47.3 billion, which means that the banks are on course to meet their overall target of £190 billion.

"For the first time since the recession ended, manufacturers are reporting improving access to finance," said the EEF's chief economist, Lee Hopley.

"Hopefully, this will translate into better news on new lending in the coming months."