Last May when the Bounce Back Loan Scheme was launched, many businesses were on their knees, not in a show of racial unity, but financially due to being ordered to close completely for a short time while the viral curve was flattened and the NHS was saved, along with many lives.
As the weeks morphed into months, businesses all over Britain started to feel the devastating effects of not being able to operate. Businesses were effectively forced to cease trading. We had to shut. Full stop.
That’s survivable for a healthy business for a limited period of time, and assumes that in Tigger-like fashion, the business can bounce back quickly and effectively with few cuts and bruises belying its forced closure. That also assumes the period the business is closed is extremely limited.
I, like almost a million other business owners, took out a BBL to tide my business over for the short period we had been promised we had to remain closed. Unfortunately, my business straddled the twin peaks of both travel and hospitality which dealt it a double blow and cut it off well below the knees. Since taking out that loan and with repayment time looming, I can see the loan for what it really is – as a fraudulent mis-selling by both the government and the banks.
My former Tigger-like ability to rise above the challenges of business owning have faded like the covers of my childhood books, there’s simply no chance of bouncing back after 12 months of nothing. The business has gone. The loan will never be repaid. How can it be? I have no business to bring back to life after it contracted fatal covid restrictions. Trading ceased last March, by May, I had no option but to take out the loan ‘on the promise’ of a return to normality in a couple more months. This was a lie. These loans have been fraudulently mis-sold, plain and simple.
And it is fraud on a grand scale and a fraud that keeps on giving. As of 21 March, this year, 101,666 BBLS top-ups had been approved worth £0.91 billion. That’s just the top-ups taken out by companies who initially didn’t apply for the full amount the first-time round. It’s difficult to get hold of the exact figures but to date at least 43 billion pounds, and counting, has been lent through the three major government-backed lending programmes.
Much has been said about the borrowers and their ability to repay the loans. Within weeks banks were warning that as many as half the borrowers wouldn’t be able to repay the loans. There has been much written about fraudulent loans taken out by rogue company directors seeing it as a sneaky way to get a low interest loan, but these are few. Most people taking out the loans were honestly and desperately attempting to save their businesses from dying, being forced to shut to save people from dying. Nothing has been said about the fraud on the other side, the fraud of the lender and the underwriters of that loan, the government.
Here are the words of a large-scale exhibition organiser fighting to save his business “We have not been able to earn a penny since we received the ‘bounce back’ loan last May, because of continued Government prohibition of so-called ‘mass gatherings’ into which our B2B event is categorised. Despite this, we have started to get reminders from the bank regarding the repayment of the money”.
What is really happened here is that the government have forcedly forbid businesses from trading and hence earning a penny, and now they want us to pay the money back now. How?
All eyes are focussed on the businesses being at fault, insolvent companies taking out the loans, or wily directors buying a new supercar to ease their midlife crisis. But let’s focus on the lenders and the architects of the scheme itself. We were offered a loan with few of the normal checks, if any, as part of emergency measures. I doubt many businesses would have otherwise taken out a loan at all, or a loan of this magnitude, if they hadn’t been forced to cease trading.
I truly question whether anyone currently in government decision-making circles has ever run a business. Debt doesn’t feel good or inspire a feeling of success. Debt for most small and medium-sized businesses is an occasional necessary evil to grow, with risk weighed up, a risk usually worth taking as you nurture the vision of your business. This bounce back kind of debt was insidiously forced upon us, the only way to survive and keep going while we waited for the light at the end of the tunnel to shine brightly. We are still waiting, but the bounce has gone out of our businesses if they still exist at all.
We have been fraudulently led into an enormous debt that financial experts predicted, at least half of which will never be repaid, cannot be repaid. That’s 22 billion pounds of taxpayer’s money, your money, that has been thrown away by needlessly closing the country for a disease with a 99.4% survival rate.
Come on gov, pull the other one, if this isn’t fraud on a grand scale, I’m a second-hand car salesman. And if you’re thinking this won’t affect you because you’re happily employed in the public sector, safe and sound, we are all in this together, one way or another, if you still have a job and still have money coming in you will end up re-paying for this fraudulent loan scheme on behalf of those who cannot.