East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has said that he was surprised to find out that the Treasury did not set regional targets for Project Merlin, the agreement between the Government and the main banks which was meant to increase lending, especially to small businesses. Mr Wilson uncovered the information in a Parliamentary Question to the Treasury.
Sammy Wilson said:
“I find it strange that no regional targets were set for Project Merlin. Surely the Government should have been concerned not only about nationwide lending increases, but increases in lending right across and in every region of the country.
Although UK banks lent 20% more to British businesses in 2011 than in 2010, we have no figures for the situation in Northern Ireland but we know that increased lending by the banks has not been the experience of many small business owners here.
Access to finance is one of the key issues affecting the ability of businesses to survive and expand and it is raised with me frequently both as Minister for Finance and as a local elected representative. It is clear that this is a hugely important issue to businesses in Northern Ireland. Lack of finance is slowing job creation and so it is disappointing that the Treasury did not see fit to set targets for increased lending in this part of the United Kingdom.”