Alan Sugar, the straight-talking star of hit TV show The Apprentice has pointed the finger at businesses – not banks – as the reason behind the fall in UK lending.
Speaking following an event in Birmingham attended by local companies keen to glean some of Lord Sugar’s entrepreneurial know-how, the Government’s enterprise champion said it was companies that were not being “positive” about borrowing money.
Lord Sugar has in the past come under fire from small business groups for his comments about firms “moaning” about not being lent enough money.
He said he still believed the banks were doing a good job.
“I would like to make it perfectly clear once and for all that the banks are there to do business and they will do business with anybody that has a justifiable business plan and the necessary assets to back it up,” he said.
“They will not – quite rightly – be ready to lend to people who have got a whim of an idea.
“It does not apply to all business – there is the word ‘some’ – some businesses do not warrant banks lending into them and that is it.
“A lot do warrant banks lending money and they are being lent to.
“Banks are saying that there is a lack of demand because too many companies are feeling depressed because of what they are reading in the media.
“It’s the companies themselves that are not being positive in the sense of demand for funding.”
Lord Sugar’s visit to Birmingham came in the same week another entrepreneurial household name, Sir James Dyson, delivered a report for the Conservatives laying down how the party should put the UK at the forefront of global technology and manufacturing.
Lord Sugar, who made his name with computer company Amstrad in the 1980s, said he “wholeheartedly agreed” with Sir James’s assertion that the UK needs to focus on innovation.
“I don’t think there’s a lack of it in this country,” he said.
But he said the engineering sector was being held back by its image problem among young people.
“The trouble is it doesn’t seem to be fashionable – what is fashionable is things like media studies,” he said.
“I think that the curriculum in schools should make it fashionable – teaching the importance of production, engineering and manufacturing.
“It’s how the parents put money on the table and how they put food in their mouths.”
Lord Sugar was in Birmingham to take part in an event organised by Business Link, answering questions from local companies and dispensing wisdom in the brusque manner TV viewers have become accustomed to from the BBC show The Apprentice.
Business Link West Midlands chief executive Lorraine Holmes said Lord Sugar was an ideal person to advise local companies.
She said: “One of the things we often find with Business Link is that companies ask us to introduce them to other businesses and other business people.
“They like getting insight and advice from other businesses and that’s why we are taking entrepreneurs with a record of success and showcasing them to businesses in the West Midlands,” she said.
“Lord Sugar is the ideal person for that.
“It coincides with the fact that in the last six weeks we have had an unprecedented demand for our services.
“There is a real change in what people are asking for – they are asking about growth so it’s very opportune that we have organised this event.”