EXPANDING businesses can now borrow up to £10,000 from a finance company set up by Bournemouth council.

The money is being loaned by Bournemouth Community Finance Company Limited (BCFCL), which is wholly owned by the council and began operating earlier this year.

Loans of up to £10,000 are being offered for start-ups or expansions rather than day-to-day running costs, with decisions on eligibility made on a case by case basis.

The company began lending in April, but the first tranche of loans were unregulated – meaning they could only be taken up by a limited company, a partnership of four or more partners, or an individual seeking to borrow more than £25,000.

The latest loans are regulated, which means they are governed by the Consumer Credit Act and can be taken up by partnerships or three or fewer people or individuals borrowing less than £25,000.

Bournemouth council’s Conservative leader Cllr John Beesley said: “With a commitment of up to £15m, the cabinet approved the Community Finance Initiative last July, and I am pleased that it is actively lending so quickly. “By investing this money locally, we will be supporting local businesses directly and helping them to grow Bournemouth’s economy, while also achieving a better financial return for Bournemouth’s council tax payers.”

The community finance company gained its consumer credit licence last year but had to ensure policies and processes were in place to meet the Financial Conduct Authority’s compliance requirements, which came into force on April 1.

Liz Wilkinson, executive director for finance at Bournemouth Borough Council and managing director of BCFCL, said: “The team have worked incredibly hard to navigate the various compliance criteria to which we have to adhere to make sure we are getting the best deal for Bournemouth and the businesses we lend to. “We are proud to have reached this very significant milestone for this innovative, exciting project and are keen to hear from suitable borrowers who we may be able to help.”

To be eligible for a loan, business owners need to be over 18, with a comprehensive business plan, and be based in Bournemouth or operating for the economic benefit of the borough.

Details are available by emailing communityfinance@bournemouth.gov.uk or calling 01202 451118 for an initial discussion.