Help For Businesses In Riots Aftermath 
UK banks, including RBS, HBC, Barclays and Lloyds have pledged additional financial support to businesses affected by the recent riots. This includes making short to medium-term financial arrangements available for repairs and to replace stock. They will also offer repayment holidays until insurance claims can be settled.

Chief Executive of the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), Angela Knight said: "These riots are appalling and it seems that the majority of businesses affected are small. We hope that as many as possible will reopen and the banks are putting in place arrangements to help. Businesses must contact their insurance company, but at the same time we know that claims take time to process and we stand ready to help."

According to a statement on the BBA website, customers can get help and advice from their bank simply and quickly. The banks have put special numbers in place for customers to call, teams are available inside the banks to help and business relationship managers are getting in contact.

It goes on to say that many bank branches have also been affected by the riots but even in these areas they are doing their best to make sure that all customers can get the banking services they need.

The statement says that the banks will sympathetically and sensitively consider the problems of each business and additional financial support will be available should it be required to provide solutions for the affected businesses.

The BBA has published a list of the numbers to call for customers of Bank of Scotland, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, Natwest, RBS and Santander, which can be found on their website.

Prime Minister David Cameron also announced emergency measures for businesses affected by the rioting. He pledged that any shops or companies that had their premises destroyed would have their council tax and business rates cancelled immediately.

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Bank of England Cuts Growth Forecast 
In a further downgrade since the last one in May, the Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, has cut the 2011 growth forecast for the British economy to 1.5 per cent.

This is the fifth downgrade since last June and this time the estimate has been cut from 1.8 per cent. The knock-on effect is that the forecast for 2012 has been cut from 2,5 per cent to nearer to 2 per cent.

He also predicted inflation could increase above 5 per cent as energy bills continue to climb. “The timing and fall back in inflation is highly uncertain,” King said. However, he is sure that inflation should fall back below the 2 per cent target in the medium term, as temporary factors fade.

According to the Governor, some of the biggest risks to economic growth come from the global economy and it is very hard to quantify those risks.

“The key question is whether that burden will be shared in the context of a downturn in the world economy or a rebalance in demand. We must work with our colleagues abroad to reduce the imbalance. But there are limits to what monetary policy can do to alter inflation,” he said.

He declined to say if the Bank of England was considering another round of quantitative easing in order to prop up the economy. But he warned that "there is a limit to what UK monetary policy can do when large, real adjustments are required".

On a more upbeat note, the Governor is confident that, while it may be small and more gradual than some would like, there will be a recovery, as the country is doing its best.

“We have a credible medium-term fiscal plan, which many countries do not, and we have had a depreciation of our exchange rate (which could help exports)," he said.

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UK Childcare Cost Amongst Most Expensive 
Working mothers are being forced out of jobs because of high childcare costs and cuts in benefits, according to figures from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Despite unemployment levels falling, the number of women out of work has risen by 42,000 and the IPPR has challenged the Government’s assertion that its welfare policy will “make work pay” and encourage more people into work. A total of 260,000 women have now been out of work for over a year.

Dalia Ben-Galim, IPPR Associate Director, said: “Cuts to childcare tax credits mean that for some women, work no longer pays and they are better off staying at home.”

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has found that Britain is one of the most expensive countries in the world when it comes to looking after children. It costs an average £97 a week for 25 hours of care, which increases to £115 a week in London and the South East.

According to the Daycare Trust the cost of a nursery place for a child aged over two has risen twice as quickly as wages and fees have increased by 4.8 per cent since last year, meaning any savings available for families will be more important than ever.

Ben-Galim went on to say: “During the recession, unemployment among men increased much more than among women. But our analysis of the latest figures shows that this experience is now being reversed, in large part because of the government’s public spending cuts.”

“Women are increasingly joining the ranks of the long–term unemployed and the prospects for female employment are likely to remain gloomy for some time to come,” she added.

The IPPR has called upon the Government to reform the welfare state in order to provide universal childcare for all children, so as to encourage full employment.

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Small Businesses Self-Finance 
According to recent research, more than a quarter of entrepreneurs have been forced to turn to friends and family for finance for their business, while more than 10 per cent have re-mortgaged their homes.

Rising prices and the cost of business financing are adversely affecting the private lives and personal finances of many SME owners, according to a new study by the Centre for Economic and Business Research.

The research was conducted among owners and managing directors of 750 UK small businesses with twenty employees or less and reveals that almost half of small businesses have had no choice but to inject additional cash into their company from personal sources this year.

The vast majority of small businesses currently view the UK as an “unbearably expensive'” place to do business and many are finding they can only survive by supplementing the company with personal finances.

Almost a third have had to turn to personal sources for a loan to cover spiralling costs, while around a quarter have taken out a personal overdraft, bank loan or credit card specifically for a cash injection into their business.

Some small business owners have been pushed into even more extreme measures, with 13 per cent going as far as re-mortgaging their homes.

It is hardly surprising news to find that small business owners are self-financing, as according to a recent FSB member survey, of the 20 per cent of small firms that had applied for credit in the 12 months to June this year, a third have been refused.

According to the research, the average amount raised from all personal channels stands at just over £20,400 per business. However this figure is much higher in some sectors, such as dental and medical surgeries, whose borrowing averages £120,000.

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Banks to Hit Lending Targets But Not For SMEs 
Figures out last week show that the top five banks will hit the targets set for them under the Project Merlin agreement but have fallen woefully short of the lending expected to SMEs.

The banks said they had lent just over £100bn to UK businesses in the first half of the year against an annual target of £190bn. But lending to small and medium-sized firms was only £37.4bn, compared with an annual target of £76bn. However, Barclays indicated that the current account balances of UK small business customers have increased by 41 per cent this year.

And as far as SMEs were concerned, Lloyds just beat its small business target, lending them £6.8bn, RBS said that it had lent £15.5bn and HSBC fell short.

Lending is not the only aspect of the Project Merlin agreement to be important in the relationship between the banks and the private sector. Adam Marshall, Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce said:

"Targets only tell part of the story, what is absolutely critical is to see relationships between SME's and lending institutions rebuilt and to see trust and transparency improve,” he said.

John Walker, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses said of the figures:

“... targets do not address the underlying problems in the banking sector, where only a handful of banks control the majority of the market.

With global economic and financial fears, it should not be about meeting targets but about genuinely helping businesses start-up, grow and invest to help to put the UK recovery onto firmer ground.

The FSB is urging the Independent Commission on Banking to be bold in its recommendations to government in September and to ensure that increasing competition in the sector is at the forefront of its report - without this, small firms will continue to get a rough deal.”

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