Banks failing in pandemic duties, business leader warns

Banks are failing in their duties to prop up struggling companies through the coronavirus crisis, the head of one of the country’s most influential business groups has said.

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Richard Burge warned that Britain’s top lenders are unable to keep companies afloat while they wait for Government help, and provide Government-backed loans.

“Banks have two simple tasks. Both seem to be defeating them, or they have decided they do not want to play,” he said.

In a blistering attack, Mr Burge criticised top bankers for not planning how to maintain their role as a key public service during pandemics.

“The leadership of our public services are paid salaries that barely amount to the expense accounts of senior bankers, yet we are told we have attracted to the tops of our financial institutions the very best of talent,” He said.

Last month several top banks were forced to backtrack after originally telling company owners they would have to put their own savings on the line if they wanted Government-backed loans just to keep paying their staff.

Other businesses are being offered loans with “outrageous” interest rates, Mr Burge said.

He said: “There is a grave suspicion that this sort of behaviour is designed to fail; so the banks can say they did make funds available but it is hardly their fault if they were not taken up.”

He warned: “There is a serious danger that at the end of the pandemic, the senior bankers and financiers will look as if they personally stood secure and safe on the hillside while the battle raged, only to descend to the field at dusk to pick through the remains.”