Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Niall Collins TD has criticised the Government for allowing its lending target for SMEs via the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) to run behind target in 2016.

Deputy Collins was speaking following receipt of a parliamentary reply that shows that the SBCI was €256m behind target at the end of December 2016.

“In its own 2016 Action Plan for Jobs, the Government committed that the SBCI would deliver the ‘full deployment of the initial €800 million of funding by the end of 2016 through lending to SMEs.’

“Of course, the lending of €544 million to 12,589 SMEs is to be welcomed, the fact remains that the Government failed to reach their target and failed to lend some 32% of the total budget resulting in €256m not being lent to support Irish SMEs.

“This should be concerning to Ministers Mitchell O’Connor and Noonan, but I don’t get the sense that it’s even on their radar.

“Irish SMEs need affordable and accessible credit to keep their businesses afloat as well as scaling up. However, high street banks are continuing to deleverage, reduce net loan books and shrinking their balance sheets leaving SMEs dependent on bodies such as the SBCI for credit.

“Despite years of promises, the last government has failed to deliver cheap and accessible credit to Irish SMEs stemming their growth.

“There is an inherent problem in how this credit is distributed. The vast majority of credit provided through the SBCI is delivered through pillar banks. This needs to change. The SBCI should be allowed to lend directly to SMEs and cut out the pillar banks.

“Given that the post office network needs new financial services to provide to their customers, deploying SBCI credit facilities to SMEs via post offices should be examined.

“SMEs are the lifeblood of the economy and that without easy access to credit, we risk cutting out the oxygen that sustains and grows our indigenous sector, which employs over 900,000 people nationally.

“Both Ministers to find a better way of allowing credit flow to the SME sector. Having over €250m of available credit lying idle in a bank account is neither good business nor policy,” concluded Collins.