County pioneers investment plan

James Meekings of Funding Circle and County Councillor Michael Green who have launched the pioneering scheme.

James Meekings of Funding Circle and County Councillor Michael Green who have launched the pioneering scheme.

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BUSINESSES and investors in the Fylde can tap into a new partnership designed to boost enterprise in the county.

Lancashire County Council is to become the first local authority in the UK to invest taxpayers money into an internet marketplace where people directly lend to small businesses.

The council and Funding Circle have announced the launch of the Local Business Lending Partnership, a pioneering scheme to stimulate local economic growth and employment through improved access to business finance.

As part of partnership, the council will lend an initial £100,000 to Lancashire-based businesses using Funding Circle, the UK’s largest online marketplace

The council said it was a blueprint for the future of small business lending across the UK, and that the pilot scheme will help realise the growth potential of local businesses that are currently being stifled by poor access to finance.

It added the partnership could grow to a multi-million pound commitment over the next five years.

James Meekings, co-founder of Funding Circle, said: “This revolutionary partnership will deliver much-needed finance to growing businesses in Lancashire, in turn creating jobs and boosting the local economy. Lancashire County Council is leading the way for other local authorities to follow, injecting finance right into the heart of the local business community.”

The partnership with Funding Circle has been arranged by the county council through its economic development department – Lancashire County Developments Limited.

County Councillor Michael Green, cabinet member with responsibility for economic development, said: “This is a ground-breaking new way to fund business growth and a first for any council in the UK.

“There is great potential to grow the Lancashire economy in the future. Working with Funding Circle, our aim is to unlock more of this potential. Lancashire County Council is determined to show that the county is open for business.”

Lancashire’s 52,000 small businesses are responsible for more than 50 per cent of local private sector employment.

A recent study by Funding Circle indicated the potential economic boost that could be unlocked through better access to finance, with 42 per cent of small businesses in the North West stating that they would increase staff numbers if they could obtain finance.

Launched in August 2010, Funding Circle enables businesses to access finance independent of their banks and people to receive attractive, stable returns for the long-term.

This process sidesteps the high street banks with businesses receiving finance in a matter of days compared to up to three month.

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