Small businesses, often hailed as the backbone of the economy, are facing increasingly challenging circumstances, impeding their ability to innovate and grow. A report by the House of Commons Treasury select committee sheds light on the detrimental impact of damaging financial regulations and inadequate support from banks, pushing small enterprises to the brink.

Navigating Regulatory Hurdles

In its report on access to banking services for smaller firms, the Committee raises concerns about the unfair debanking of legitimate businesses and the substandard processes for resolving disputes between SMEs and banks. The proposed scrapping of the SME supporting factor in the new Basel 3.1 standards is met with skepticism, as it could potentially disadvantage British small businesses compared to their European and American counterparts.

A Call for Transparency

The Committee emphasizes the importance of transparency in banking decisions, urging the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to compel banks to disclose the reasons behind business closures. With more than 140,000 small businesses debanked in the last year alone, the lack of clarity surrounding these closures is cause for alarm. The proposed legislative changes to crack down on debanking signal a step in the right direction, but more rigorous oversight is needed.

Challenges in Dispute Resolution

The Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS), established by commercial banks, has come under scrutiny for its perceived lack of independence and ineffective eligibility criteria. Despite its significant cost, the BBRS has settled only a fraction of cases, prompting calls for its closure. The Committee urges HM Treasury to replace the BBRS with a new, independent system that better serves the needs of unfairly treated small businesses.

Competitive Concerns

Plans to introduce Basel 3.1 reforms raise concerns about the competitiveness of British SMEs on the global stage. The Committee warns that stringent lending requirements could hinder SMEs’ ability to compete internationally, placing them at a disadvantage compared to businesses in other major jurisdictions.

Closing Thoughts

As the Chair of the Treasury Committee, Dame Harriett Baldwin, aptly notes, small businesses have faced a torrid time in recent years. While banks and regulators cannot solve all their problems, greater efforts are needed to alleviate the unnecessary burdens imposed on small enterprises. The report serves as a clarion call for action, urging stakeholders to prioritize the needs of small businesses and foster an environment conducive to their growth and prosperity.

In response, Emma Lovell, Chief Executive of the Lending Standards Board (LSB), highlights the importance of lenders improving their processes and controls, particularly regarding personal guarantees. The LSB is committed to updating its guidance to ensure fair treatment for SMEs, underscoring the critical role of standards in safeguarding small businesses.


As the economic landscape continues to evolve, it is imperative that the challenges facing small businesses are addressed with urgency and diligence. By fostering greater transparency, enhancing dispute resolution mechanisms, and ensuring regulatory frameworks support rather than hinder SME growth, stakeholders can pave the way for a more equitable and prosperous future for small enterprises across the nation.

Categorized in:

Knowledge, Regulation,

Last Update: May 10, 2024