Banks in roadshow for struggling firms

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BRITAIN’S five biggest banks launch a national charm offensive in Sheffield today in a bid to convince business chiefs they are lending money again.

Representatives from Lloyds TSB, HSBC, RBS, Santander and Barclays will offer a free mentoring service to South Yorkshire firms looking for finance at the event at the Cutlers’ Hall.

The banks have launched a Business Finance Taskforce and are touring the country to meet business leaders who have struggled to raise finance during the economic downturn.

The roadshow is being spearheaded by former Sheffield city councillor Angela Knight, chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association.

She told The Star the banks are committed to providing finance for the large manufacturing firms at the heart of South Yorkshire’s economy.

She said: “We think manufacturing is doing a fantastic job and there is a real understanding that manufacturing is really showing its worth.”

The ‘Operation Merlin’ talks aim to increase the amount lent to small and medium businesses by 15 per cent, compared to 2010.

Ms Knight said: “The banks are lending and we are running the flag up the flagpole to make that absolutely clear.

“Not every business is seeking finance and not every business that wants finance will have got its business plan in the right place. That’s why we are rolling out the mentoring system.”

Ms Knight attended Sheffield High School and was a Tory councillor in the city between 1987-1992. She became an MP and Treasury minister in John Major’s government.

“I was determined that this was not for London. I wanted to start off in a manufacturing heartland and one of our major cities and of course I wanted to do it in Sheffield.”

Government minister Lord Sassoon and the Master Cutler will be at today’s event.