Published: 5 March 2010
by PETER GRUNER
BRITAIN’S “fat cat” banks stand accused of turning their backs on traders in Islington at a time when they desperately need financial help to dig their way out of the recession.
The situation is so serious – with cash-strapped businesses threatened with closure, resulting in redundancies – that senior officials from the banks are being summoned to an urgent meeting in Finsbury Park on Monday to explain their position.
The traders have the support of Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn, who has written to Business Secretary Lord Mandelson. Mr Corbyn said he had great sympathy for the traders and accused the banks of being “more concerned with self interest than the public good”.
Chief executive of Islington Chamber of Commerce, Ronke Lawal, said: “In Camden Passage, where traders are struggling with massive new rent and business rate increases, the banks won’t give them a loan.”
Monday’s meeting is being organised by Talal Karim, chief executive of business forum FinFuture, at their offices in Seven Sisters Road.
Mr Karim said: “The taxpayer has pumped a lot of money into these big banks and the government has told them to lend more money to small firms.
“What is worse is that so many of our firms have been loyal customers of the banks for decades, but when they really need financial help the banks are simply turning their backs on them.”
So far Lloyds TSB group, RBS/NatWest and the HSBC have all said they will be sending senior officials. Barclays have yet to confirm that they will be represented.
There will also be representatives from government enterprise schemes which can also provide loans.
The banks are accused of only being prepared to lend money to business that are doing well.
Mr Karim added that the current financial crisis is happening at a time when Finsbury Park is on the up as a result of a major regeneration.
“A lot of businesses are simply looking for a short-term loan,” said Mr Karim. “Otherwise they face closure and making people redundant.”
At Fonthill Road fashion centre, chairman of the traders association Selim Gozubuyukoglu said many businesses were walking a financial tightrope.
“With the banks refusing to lend us money, we are having to borrow on our credit cards,” he said. “As a result people are getting into terrible debt and now credit cards are being taken away.”
Mr Gozubuyukoglu said he had to close a clothing factory and make 15 staff redundant last year because of the recession.
He added: “I needed £100,000 to kickstart my business but the bank wouldn’t even let me have £25,000. I’ve been in business for 30 years and I’ve never known anything like it.
“When you ask the bank why they won’t lend us money they say come back when we have got our financial house in order.
“But we need money today when we are struggling to survive.”
• The traders meet the banks meeting will take place on Monday, March 8 at 6pm at FinFuture, 225-279, Seven Sisters Road, N4 (close to Finsbury Park Railway bridge). Call 020 7272 1465 or visit www.finfuture.co.uk.