Mandelson's [Pounds Sterling]20bn Loans Deal for Struggling Firms

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Byline: JOE MURPHY

A MAJOR increase in taxpayer-backed lending to firms is being unveiled tomorrow by Lord Mandelson.

The Business Secretary has pulled together a complex funding package to underwrite up to [pounds sterling]20 billion of lending to struggling companies.

It could release billions of pounds through high-street banks to companies suffering from the credit crunch.

Previous plans included an extra billion pounds of underwritten loans for small firms and exporters only. The Mandelson package involves creative use of about [pounds sterling]4billion of European Union money to expand the potential benefits and also changes the rules so that medium-sized firms can benefit.

Lord Mandelson was said to have come up with the scheme independently of the Treasury and will announce it himself in the morning.

But in a statement to the cameras today in Downing Street he announced help was on its way. He said: "I'm going to deliver real help which targets real need which is going to make a real difference. I'm going to announce that during the course of this week. …