Funding For Lending Credit Cut Sharply
British lenders taking part in a Bank of England scheme to boost firms' and households' access to credit cut lending sharply in the last three months, official statistics have revealed.
The lower than expected Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS) figures have dampened hopes that the project could help revive economic growth.
The BoE announced the scheme jointly with the Government in June 2012, as a way to unblock a credit log-jam which some economists say is a big factor behind Britain's weak economic recovery.
Banks and building societies cut lending by a net £2.425bn between October and December.
The figure compares to an increase of around £1bn in the first months of the FLS's operation.
Total net lending by banks and building societies taking part in the scheme - which includes all major British lenders apart from HSBC - is now down by £1.502bn since June 30.
The bank said that the scheme's benefits will not be fully clear until later in 2013.
"I would not expect to see a return to rising aggregate quantities until we start getting data for 2013 at the earliest," the bank's Paul Fisher said.
Taxpayer-backed lenders Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group saw lending fall, despite drawing money from the scheme.
Lloyds has drawn £3bn so far, but lending fell by £3.1bn last quarter, while RBS has taken £750m, but its lending still fell by £1.7bn.
Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said that the Government and the BoE had always made clear that it would take some time before the impact of the Funding for Lending scheme was felt, and that it was not expected as early as the fourth quarter of 2012.
"I think the Bank of England at the time of the launch of the policy was clear that it would take some time for the impact of the policy to be fully felt," the spokesman said.
"The most recent figures for lending in the economy, for January - the first month of Q1 2013 (the first quarter of 2013) - show that lending to the economy increased in January.
"I think we are also seeing the impact of the Funding for Lending scheme through lower borrowing costs. I think we are seeing evidence of the policy having a clear impact."
But shadow chancellor Ed Balls said: "These are deeply disappointing figures. Net lending is actually down since the Funding for Lending scheme started and down by £2.4bn in the final three months of 2012.
"And the Bank of England's own figures show that net lending to businesses fell by £4.5bn in the last quarter."