Business secretary Alok Sharma has warned the banks that they need to do more to help small businesses desperate for financial aid.
In the daily coronavirus briefing from 10 Downing Street, he pointedly warned the banks that it was time for them to repay to favour the taxpayer did for them when bailing them out in the last financial crisis.
His harsh words came after bosses complained banks were not handing over the money the government has made available to help them through the national lockdown.
Sharma said: “The government will do everything it can to support business and the chancellor will say more in the coming days.
“It would be completely unacceptable for them to refuse financial support to firms which need it.”
Businesses have revealed the banks are trying to sell them loans at 7% interest secured against their homes and other property rather than the government’s rescue packages.
Bosses and accountants reckon one in five small firms will go out of business over the next four weeks if the government does not force the banks to hand over the cash.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said that “any good business in financial difficulty who needs access to cash to pay their rent, the salaries of their employees, pay suppliers, or purchase stock, will be able to access a government-backed loan, on attractive terms.”
But thousands of struggling firms can’t get through to their banks as branches have closed and phones are not answered, and when they do, are being told by the banks they’re not eligible for the government money.
Meanwhile, the coronavirus outbreak is worsening.
The Department of Health says 153,000 people have been tested for the virus, with 29,474 showing positive.
In the past 24 hours, 2,352 people have dies, including four doctors.