Bank of England in new push to kickstart lending

Experts believe the Bank’s Financial Policy Committee (FPC) will recommend plans to relax rules requiring banks to hold large amounts of cash as a buffer, reports the London Evening Standard.

The committee met last week and is due to publish its latest recommendations, alongside the Bank’s biannual financial stability report.

Bank Governor Sir Mervyn King and other members of the committee, which oversees financial stability, have already signalled the move as the Bank looks at ways to get the flow of credit moving.

It would be the next step in the Bank’s battle to ward off a tightening credit squeeze, following the announcement earlier this month of a £100 billion-plus scheme to boost bank lending.

The Bank revealed it was working on a new “funding for lending” scheme, while last week it held its first £5 billion monthly auction under a six month loan facility programme.

Sir Mervyn, who chairs the FPC, has hinted heavily that the Bank should look at relaxing liquidity rules. He said earlier this month: “In current exceptional conditions, where central banks stand ready to provide extraordinary amounts of liquidity, against a wide range of collateral, the need for banks to hold large liquid asset buffers is much diminished, and I hope regulators around the world will take note.”

His deputy Paul Tucker has added that regulators should look at freeing up hefty cash buffers.

Economist Simon Hayes at Barclays said regulators have been instructing banks to build up sizeable liquidity buffers in line with European rules. He added: “Put simply, these rules force banks to hold significant amounts of highly liquid assets such as government bonds, and thus reduce the funds available for lending to households and businesses. Some roll-back on these requirements now seems likely.”

But it is not thought the Bank is planning to relax capital reserve rules that protect banks in the event of financial stress.