An Open Letter to the BEIS Strategy Committee After My Visit Yesterday

It was a long day for me yesterday, as I popped down to London to observe the latest chapter in the Bounce Back Loan fairy tale play out before my eyes, that being a BEIS Strategy Committee meeting on Covid Loan Fraud.

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I would like to extend my thanks to “Tim” a hardworking young chap who works tirelessly behind the scenes for that committee, for he explained to me prior to the visit what I needed to do to get into the Palace of Westminster, where to go and the procedure to observe one of their meetings/evidence gathering sessions.

In fact, as I got there a good couple of hours before the BEIS Strategy Committee meeting began, he came up to me, introduced himself to me, shook my hand and even took me for a coffee, before he then had to get back to his work.

To access Committee Room 6 which was where the meeting or “evidence gathering session” was to take place, you need to wander through the Palace of Westminster, and you finally end up in a long corridor which is quite glorious to behold:

As I was early, I sat outside with my cup of coffee reading a newspaper via an app on my mobile phone, quite in awe at the numerous MPs and even Lords I had seen on television as they walked past to get to wherever they were going. I spotted and said hello to Ian Blackford and saw Lord Blunkett too, but I am name dropping now….

It was when I was sat there something unusual happened, I caught sight of a security man walking down the corridor and coming in the other direction two other security men, they met up a few feet away from me and started to discuss their tasks for the day.

“I am on duty outside room 6” said one of the men, “a character called Mr Bounce Back in on his way, and he is going to disrupt the meeting, and shout things out”, we will have officers on hand inside and outside of the room whilst the meeting in on and will jump on him when he starts”.

They had been tipped off about my presence as I had mentioned it on Twitter, I won’t mention who instructed them to “guard” me and told them to be ready to “jump on me” if I “kicked off”, I do have that person’s name, but I will save that person embarrassment (for now).

But I have your name as I overheard them talking, not hard as the hapless buffoons were discussing the security operation a few feet away from me, oblivious it was me they were discussing.

Once the meeting had started and was playing out it dawned on me most people in the room hated each other, (except me I try and see the good in everyone) and they should have had the security detail on hand if they all started laying into each other (you will hear and see the hatred if you watch the video of the event below)…..

To the members of the BEIS Strategy Committee who read this, and I know you will, the reason I was there was not to disrupt your meeting/evidence gathering session, but to try and make sense of the ridiculous Bounce Back Loan scheme which I have been doing for almost two years now.

I speak to tens of thousands of people with Bounce Back Loans who are currently besides themselves with worry, and support them and guide them when they are close to the edge due to that imploding BBL scheme, a job I should add YOU should be doing, but hey ho, here we are, nearly two years after the launch of that scheme, and you the MPs who continually have your little meetings are still none the wiser on the ins and outs of that scheme, and get told things that make your hair curl.

Think of the mental damage that scheme is doing for those with a BBL, if you can all choke on your coffee when told what you are being told in your evidence gathering sessions, have the common sense to realise many with a BBL are suffering the consequences of the farcical way the BBL scheme was designed and the never-ending secrecy about certain aspects of it.

Until you do “get it” your meetings are meaningless and heap more damage on SMEs than they do help and support for them. Read the above a few times and let that sink in.

Once the meeting started one security officer took it in turn to sit inside the room close to where I was sitting, and to glare at me and watch my every move, the others outside the door no doubt ready to charge in and cart me off it I did anything wrong.

For the record, I was not intimidated, I had no intention of “kicking off” and was there for a much more important reason, one you should be ashamed of, and one I can now lay out below.

Having seen plenty of Treasury Committee Meetings, Public Accounts Committee Meetings, and now this BEIS Strategy Committee Meeting, and having been sat here for almost two years doing what I do and having taken part in two National Audit Office BBL Investigations/Audits, I can comfortably say that many Government Departments have brought the Bounce Back Loan scheme into disrepute.

Each week it feels like some additional Minister, MP or Member of the House of Lords drops another Mother of all Bombs on the scheme and exposes more nonsense from those associated with the scheme.

I am now at the stage of this strange journey, where, once again, I am now being contacted by an ever-growing number of people worried sick, sick to the point of distraction about their BBL and how they can repay it, and some of them have no option but to default but are scared witless about what they need to do.

No one in Government or associated with the BBL scheme is thinking of those who cannot repay through no fault of their own, they are all losing their minds over the fraud aspect of it, if you watch the footage of yesterdays meeting, which I have put up below, you will see that Lord Agnew say fraud is huge within that scheme, the British Business Bank says it is quite bad yet the banks say its tiny.

Anyway I digress.

The reason why I was there, (now listen up committee members and the security teams) is that I had a feeling deep down that one person who would be attending that meeting would be a decent, upright, and caring person.

In my pocket I had several letters, addressed to each of the individual bank bosses at that meeting, one for the British Business Bank bosses and others for the MP Committee Members, and one for Lord Agnew.

My aim was to see if any of them had the brain/guts/balls to approach me and introduce themselves as we all stood outside before the meeting was due to start. That is why I made it quite public I was attending the meeting, by the way.

If they did, I would then give them their letter the contents of which I will not reveal just yet.

Well, would you believe that one bank boss from a major bank walked straight up to me when they arrived outside the Committee Room, said hello Mr Bounce Back and shook my hand, it was at this point by the way, the security team on duty overheard that and it dawned on them who I was and that I had obviously overheard them talking early.

Anyway, that bank boss and I had a good chat, and I presented that person with their individual letter, and gave them my contact details.

Once the meeting ended, and we had all gone our separate ways, that bank boss phoned me up without withholding their personal mobile phone number and we chatted again, and all being well we are going to meet up to arrange something special that I am hoping will help those of you besides yourself with worry about the BBL scheme and repaying that loan.

I will keep you updated on that, but on a personal note I want to thank that bank boss, despite me ranting on at most banks associated with the BBL scheme including yours, and laying out your faults and failings, you are amazing and can quite clearly see what is going on and how worried people are.

To the rest of the witnesses, the other bank bosses, the British Business Bank representatives that were there and even Lord Agnew and the MPs, shame on you for continuing to bring the BBL scheme into disrepute and through your actions forcing many SMEs into a dark place through lack of information and support.

One thing I want to say at this point, and you will realise this if you watch the meeting in full below, is someone there is lying, the chairman of the meeting in his final words says he is just as confused as he was before the meeting started, with the different and often quite opposite stories he is being fed by those sat in front of him.

Something that did worry me greatly that was mentioned yesterday is that it appears the committee members were bullying the bank bosses or egging them on to publicly name everyone with a BBL, whether they have defaulted, are happily paying it back or even are in arrears.

My response to that is don’t you dare name them, how dare you even think about doing so.

Due to the actions of everyone named above the Bounce Back Loan scheme is in disrepute, the public have been fed stories, which are repeated in that meeting of how business owners bought sports cars and spent their BBL on themselves and not their businesses, and that is not the case for the majority of those with a BBL.

Hardworking business owners are being tarnished with the same brush as those who defrauded the scheme, simply by making use of a BBL, and the rules as we have seen time and time again were so ill-thought out many they are labelling as fraudsters are not actually so. In fact those associated with the scheme can’t even agree what fraud is.

That is something I have warned of many times on this website,  SMEs being fearful of a downturn in their business and customers shunning them due to having a BBL and being deemed to have played the system to get a BBL when that is not the case as those in power all slag off that scheme and make it sound like if you got a BBL you were dodgy.

The warning signs were there back then.

For many people with a BBL there is now a sense of shame at having one of those wretched loans, many are struggling to repay due to extended lockdowns, and everything else that is happening out there right now, they do not need verbal abuse from others if their details are splattered all over Government websites on the orders of clueless committee members who don’t know the half of it.

Anyway, I will keep you updated on this saga, but you can bet your bottom Dollar naming everyone with a BBL will be a bad move, and one that will lead to court action in one way or another.

I will keep you updated with my discussions with that bank boss (who I won’t name for obvious reasons) and my ideas and suggestions to them, and hopefully that forward thinking bank boss, if they are prepared to act on my ideas, which they seem very eager to do so, will help some of you get a full night’s sleep and will throw some light on what help, support and other things are available to you if you are struggling to repay your BBL.

Here is the footage of that meeting: