Cameron Hope, the developer concerned, told the BBC that he’d been knocked back for £240,000 in loans, and was left with the feeling that dealing with the banks was like ‘talking to a brick wall’. He moaned: ‘Overdrafts have been taken away from us, it is never-ending…You go into a bank and there's nothing there, the bank's open but the safe is shut.’ So far, so normal; we’re sure there are hundreds of business owners who will empathise.
However, clearly not one to take such things lying down, Hope decided to get his own back by building a brick wall (geddit?) over the door of his local NatWest on Sunday. Unfortunately, an unexpected (and unrelated) police presence scuppered his original plan – so he and his accomplices just drove up the road to Barclays and bricked their door up instead, despite the fact it wasn’t actually his bank. ‘Nothing against Barclays at all… It was Plan B,’ Hope cheerfully explained to the BBC (which of course makes it perfectly fair enough). He took the wall down after the police threatened to arrest him.
Although Hope seems to have suggested to other journalists that this was a protest against the banking industry in general, you can’t really blame Barclays for being distinctly unamused that it was singled out – given it has never had any dealings with Hope. ‘Had he approached us for a loan, we would have assessed his application on the viability of his business,’ it sniffed prissily to the Beeb, while claiming that it has boosted small business lending by 14% this year. And we have to say, if some bloke we’d never met bricked up our door to protest about a competitor, we’d be pretty miffed too.
All very bizarre. Still, it raises an interesting question – when it comes to boosting business lending, would concerted direct action succeed where the Government has seemingly failed?