LEADERS at West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership have welcomed the Treasury's changes to an emergency loan scheme for businesses.

The LEP, among others, held meetings with the banks last week to express concerns on behalf of business owners in the region.

As a result conditions on loans were relaxed, removing many of the barriers that had led to heavy criticism.

The Treasury said it had received more than 130,000 loan enquires nationally from firms but fewer than 1,000 had been approved.

Leaders in the region were pleased to welcome the changes that now allow firms easier access to financial support, having stressed the urgency of resolving businesses’ cash flow at this unprecedented time.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Bradford Council, said: “At this time of crisis, it was vital that we expressed concerns on behalf of local businesses who are in a very anxious place.

"We and the LEP are so pleased that conversations held on businesses’ behalf with the major banks were part of the growing pressure to ensure fair terms on financing that allow businesses to survive – and to look forward to a successful future once the crisis has abated.

"In addition to that, we have also been working with the LEP to ensure that businesses have access to wide range of expert assistance, including mentoring schemes, coaching and, crucially, financial support. We urge any business with concerns to contact our teams to help. You are not alone.”

Previously, government-backed loans for small businesses were only available to firms that had been turned down for a commercial loan from their bank.

That saw businesses being asked to pay interest rates of as much as 30 per cent. Following the changes to the scheme, applications will not be limited to businesses that have been refused a loan on commercial terms.

Larger firms with a turnover of up to £500m will also be eligible for more help.

Last week also saw a welcome £167m of funding for bus companies to keep services running for key workers. The Combined Authority and partners are working hard to retain services for these key people and ensure that the service is operating well and safely to get them where they need to be.

The Combined Authority and the LEP is also providing additional services to businesses during the pandemic.

This includes guidance and financial support to firms who supply critical medical products and services to the NHS, as well as supporting firms to resolve supply chain issuues.