1,100 jobs 'saved' by Credit Review Office rulings

John Trethowan said 50% of appeals by SMEs had been upheld

The Credit Review Office has saved 1,100 jobs since it was established, an Oireachtas Comittee has heard.

The CRO was established to review refusals of credit by AIB and Bank of Ireland to SMEs seeking loans under €500,000.

John Trethowan told the Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform Committee that his office had received 250 requests for appeals from SMEs and around 50% of these had been upheld.

Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath said the fact that 50% of appeals are won by the business shows that banks are not lending and meeting the needs of the SME sector.

Mr McGrath said it was a matter of concern that appeals were so high and that the work the CRO did was only the tip of the iceberg.

Committee Chairman Ciarán Lynch also highlighted a report by Mazars, which said Ireland had the second highest level of credit refusals for SMEs in the European Union.

In response Mr Trethowan said the process of accessing credit from banks could be better but the situation was improving.

He added that very often decisions were taken by a “credit factory” in Dublin but there was evidence that loan decisions are increasingly being more in local offices, which is to be welcomed.

He said the number of rejection at AIB was 36% while Bank of Ireland’s rate was 6%, which showed the clear difference between the two banks.

Mr McGrath asked about the value for money of his office and said there should be more publicity about what the office does.

Fine Gael's Simon Harris echoed this and said that while 13 SMEs in Tipperary contacted the office only one in Wicklow had done so.

This suggested that many SMEs did not know the office exists, he said.