The huge wave of Brits who became self-employed from 1981 to 1990 may break without a ripple of benefit to anyone, unless we act soon. Just when it is needed most, it has become a herculean task for these fledgling ventures to get finance. The banks want nil risk and even if you are willing to put your house on the line, lenders like Abbey National admit "at the moment we're not taking any commercial business". The head of the East London Small Business Centre, Mike King, says the Government must pay heed. First it should re-promote its loan scheme which guarantees 70%-85% of a small business loan, thereby reducing the banks' risk. In their earlier zeal, the banks made some ridiculous loans. Many went bad and now they are scared off. Secondly, Norman Lamont, the Chancellor, must backtrack. Last year, when he slapped the banks' wrists for overcharging on small business loans, they put the shutters down. But better a small loan at a premium, than none at all. Thirdly, more money is needed for enterprise agencies, as private sources dwindle. Without these, the one good thing to come from the slump - the new unemployed who decide to go it alone - might come to nought.
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