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How does the current Bank of England base rate affect businesses?

Bank of England against a blue sky

The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee meets several times a year to decide on the base interest rate.

The last time the base interest rate was this high was in 2008. What does this mean for businesses?

What is the Bank of England base rate?

The Bank of England base rate is set by the UK’s central bank. This is the rate that high street banks and other commercial lenders use when setting their own interest rates.

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee meets eight times a year, where the committee votes on any changes to the base rate.

By setting the base rate, the Bank of England can respond to changes in the UK economy.

The current Bank of England base rate is 5.25 per cent and was held for the fourth time in a row. This Bank of England interest rate decision was announced after the Monetary Policy Committee meeting on 1 Febuary 2024.

The next Bank of England interest rate decision will be on 21 March 2024.

When will interest rates go down?

With the base rate being held for the fourth time in a row, many are wondering when it will start to go down. This depends on how long it takes for inflation to fall to the Bank of England’s target of 2 per cent. Interest rates affect the cost of borrowing money and the Bank of England raises them to reduce people’s spending and bring down inflation.

Economists seem to agree that in the first half of 2024 interest rates should fall, with researchers from Morgan Stanley predicting that by the end of 2024 the base rate could sit at 4.25 per cent, with decreases starting from May.

But the Bank of England has been more cautious in their predictions. Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England said: “it’s really too early to start speculating about cutting interest rates. We’ve got to see more progress”.

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee voted six to three in favour of holding the base rate at 5.25 per cent, with two wishing to raise and one to cut the rate. Even though it seems to be the end of rate rises, the Bank of England is unlikely to rush into rate cuts until they’re certain that inflation is under control.

What do interest rates mean for businesses?

Interest rates signal how much it costs to borrow money, as well as how much savers can earn by putting money aside.

Interest rates are important for businesses, as funding often comes in the form of borrowing money. When interest rates rise, things like small business loans become more expensive. It also means more expensive mortgages.

Changes in interest rates can also affect consumer behaviour. Higher interest rates encourage saving rather than spending and are typically used in response to increasing inflation.

When the cost of goods rises due to pressures on demand, higher interest rates help relieve that pressure (in theory), as consumers hold fire on spending and taking on more debt.

We’ve mentioned ‘interest rates’ as lenders set their own rates based on a range of factors, for example the risk of not being paid back on time.

But, as explained above, it’s also important for small businesses to keep an eye on the Bank of England base rate.

How businesses can respond to the Bank of England base rate

The wider economy is challenging right now, which means businesses may need to revisit their business plan and pivot their strategy in response.

While what you do will vary depending on the specifics of your trade and business, here are some tips for responding to Bank of England base rate changes:

  • check your existing borrowing – it’s worth having a look at your terms and conditions to see how quickly base rate changes might affect your business, speaking to your bank if you’re not sure
  • think about plans for future borrowing – if you’re wondering about financing growth, you’ll need to consider what a higher interest rate environment means for those plans – and make changes as necessary
  • revisit your cash flow forecast – as well as affecting your own repayments, changes in the broader economy impact consumer behaviour, so you may need to revise your forecast – then you’ll have up-to-date information to influence your strategy
  • assess your supply chain – higher interest rates affect all the businesses and clients you work with, so try to spot any problems in advance – for example, could agreeing on contracts before rates rise help fix your own costs for the foreseeable future?

Useful guides for small business owners

How are you responding to rising interest rates and inflation? Let us know in the comments below.

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Anthony Shaw/stock.adobe.com

Sam Bromley

Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.

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