Banks will meet Treasury to clarify Big Society Bank deal

Terms of the banks' £200m contribution are questioned by Urban Forum

Toby Blume, chief executive, Urban Forum
Toby Blume, chief executive, Urban Forum

The Treasury and the high-street banks will hold further meetings to decide the terms of a £200m capital injection into the Big Society Bank.

According to the full text of the Project Merlin agreement between the banks and the government, which was released on Wednesday, the money will be provided by the banks "on a commercial basis" and subject to the "objectives, business plan and structure" of the Big Society Bank.

Representatives of the banks and the Treasury have since told Third Sector that further meetings would be needed to thrash out many key elements of the deal, including the length of time money will remain with the Big Society Bank, the level of control banks will have and the interest that will be paid on loans.

Toby Blume, chief executive of the community support charity Urban Forum, expressed concern over the commercial basis of the agreement.

"The large social lenders and large not-for-profits that might work with the Big Society Bank can already access capital from high-street lenders," he said. "If it’s no different from normal lending, then what use is it?"

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, said it made little difference whether money would ultimately return to high-street banks, rather than the Big Society Bank, so long as it was available to lend at reasonable rates.

"Access to capital is the key issue, more than interest rates," he said.

He said one key issue was whether the banks would continue to make their money available to the sector over the long term.

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