Banks urged to signpost start-up loan scheme as figures show scale of take-up in Norfolk, Suffolk and the Fens

Kevin Horne, NWES chief executive, at Rouen House in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Kevin Horne, NWES chief executive, at Rouen House in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

High-street banks have been urged to hook up entrepreneurs to the Government's start-up loan scheme amid the latest figures which show 277 new businesses have been started in Norfolk, Suffolk and the Fens.

Kevin Horne, chief executive of enterprise agency Nwes which has been tasked with lending the Government cash, said his biggest disappointment had been that the number of referrals from the big banks had been negligible.

In the east, the new businesses helped by the scheme have included a tattooist, care agency, drama school, butchers, brewery, courier, restaurant, accountant and 3D modelling company.

Almost £1.3 million has been loaned in Norfolk, Suffolk and the Fens since the scheme was launched, but Mr Horne said that the banks could do more to highlight it is there when it turned down applications.

'I think that this is an excellent scheme and perhaps my biggest disappointment is that the high street banks do not refer enough clients onto the scheme. This is a good way for the banks to 'redeem' themselves by supporting businesses that may not otherwise start and yet the referrals from that source are negligible,' he said.

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Nwes are one of two providers in the East of England and has helped businesses start with loans which are on average between £3,500 to £7,000. but have seen business helped to the tune of up to £20,000.

He said that in the 139 businesses the Norwich-based support agency had given loans to, 113 jobs had been created.

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'This is impressive given that these are 'loans of last resort' for people who have been turned down by mainstream lenders and who would probably not have started without this support,' he said.

'Whilst the loans are there to help they are not grants and are expected to be repaid. As such we provide ongoing support to all of our loan recipients and help them when they get into difficulty thus minimising bad debts,' he added.

Business Secretary Vince Cable, inset, said: 'The economic hardship we've experienced over the last few years has not stopped the flow of business ideas and people wanting to start up their own companies.

'This British entrepreneurial spirit, backed by our loan scheme, will help create the iconic companies of the future.

'Reaching this milestone shows how fertile the ground is for enterprise.'

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