The UK's Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has urged banks to make sufficient funds available to retailers and small businesses following the announcement of a government financial help package.

Plans unveiled today (14 January) include an Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme, securing up to GBP1.3bn (US$1.9bn) of additional bank loans to small firms with a turnover of up to GBP25m.

In addition, a GBP10bn Working Capital Scheme will secure up to GBP20bn of short term bank lending to companies with a turnover of up to GBP500m.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said the announcements, if taken up by the banks, will come at a "crucial" time for many retailers.

"Cash flow is the biggest threat to small businesses during the recession," Lowman said. "Many businesses that have had long term relationships with their banks and good financial histories are finding accessing finance increasingly difficult, with lending terms being changed at very short notice.

"Banks are becoming less willing to support cash flow or capital investment, and this is a threat to local shops."

Lowman said retailers are finding that suppliers are becoming more cautious and insurers for suppliers are less likely to insure credit.

"Local shops play a vital role at the heart of communities across the country. Independent academic research of consumer needs shows that people want access to a local shop within five minutes walk of their home. To enable retailers to continue to play this central role to people's access to food and sense of community, retailers must be able to access sufficient credit."