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COVID-19 loan schemes inject £22bn but questions remain

21 May 2020: The headline figure of more than £20bn in loans approved through the government’s coronavirus support schemes is striking, but a lack of granular data makes it hard to assess the effectiveness of each measure.

The latest figures published by HM Treasury show that more than £22bn in loans has been approved to over half a million businesses through the three major government-backed coronavirus lending schemes.

Since its launch two weeks ago, lenders have approved more than £14bn through the Bounce Back Loan (BBL) scheme, rising by £5.8bn in the past week, while £7bn has been approved to 40,564 businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and a further a half a billion through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loans Scheme (CLBILS), its large business equivalent.

Scheme (all figures as of 18 May 2020) Cumulative number of approved facilities Cumulative value of approved facilities Cumulative number of applications Average Loan size Approval Rate

Bounce Back Loan Scheme






Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme






Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loans Scheme






As demonstrated by the figures above, the approval rate of each scheme varies dramatically. This is mainly due to the differing criteria of each scheme, but also due to the variations in different banks’ approaches and requirements, which are often not advertised.

From ICAEW member feedback received on CBILS and CLBILS, the most common stumbling block for businesses is the ‘undertaking in difficulty’ restriction (see the ‘Who Is Eligible’ section in the British Business Bank guidance).

To help get more applications into the approved column, Katerina Joannou, Manager, Capital Markets Policy at ICAEW’s Corporate Finance Faculty, strongly encouraged businesses to take advice, be prepared for anything a bank could request and remember that they are permitted to try other providers if they are rejected by one.

Further advice from ICAEW and member firm EY on preparing a strong application for CBILS and CLBILS is available here.

Information ‘lacks granularity’

Experts have commented that without more granularity of information, it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of each scheme. Information on the size of businesses applying, to which sectors they belong, and what proportion have chosen to draw down the loan is not yet available. 

Sector-specific information in particular would prove useful, as advisers may be able to provide more tailored help and advice on aspects of the application process.

Details on how many of the loans have been approved by challenger banks versus their high street rivals are also not available, as is information on the extent of applications to banks from customers and non-customers.

Further information: