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LONDON (Reuters) - A new report has called into question the effectiveness of the British government's drive to end a lending drought to small businesses and unlock the economic growth that has eluded the country since the financial crisis.
Nearly half of Britain's small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are concerned about managing their cash flow over the next year, a survey of 451 companies with a turnover of over 50,000 pounds ($77,500) showed on Tuesday.
In addition, 46 percent of those companies said they had recently suffered at least one disruption to their cash flow, mainly due to customers being late or unable to pay their bills.
"Cash flow clearly remains a huge challenge for thousands of UK businesses," said Marcelino Castrillo, head of SME at Santander Corporate & Commercial, which commissioned the study.
New regulations brought in after the financial crisis have forced traditional lenders to cut risky financing and left many small businesses short of funds.
The British government, which sees a lack of credit to small businesses as a major factor behind the country's slow recovery from the financial crisis, has tried to reverse that situation with various schemes aimed at boosting lending.
Last week it extended and expanded its flagship Funding for Lending Scheme (FLS), which offers banks cheap credit if they increase lending to households and businesses.
While the Santander survey showed an increasing number of businesses are turning to alternative financing to help deal with cash flow fluctuations, Castrillo said more should consider going down this route.
The survey found one quarter of larger businesses, those with annual revenues between 5 million pounds and 20 million pounds, said they had used or intended to use invoice finance in the next 12 months, compared with just 2 percent of firms with revenues of 250,000-500,000 pounds.
Invoice financing - advancing funds to firms by buying their outstanding sales invoices - is booming in Britain as online platforms look to fill the gap left by banks.
($1 = 0.6455 British pounds)
Reporting by Clare Hutchison; Editing by Mark Potter