THE Welsh Government should help small businesses with finance, say Welsh Conservatives.

Opposition Tories at the Assembly will today unveil their proposals for Invest Wales – a local bank that would work with retail banks to make money available to small firms.

The idea involves a network of regional banks, including one in the Valleys and another in South East Wales, that would help firms overcome what is said to be one of the greatest obstacles to economic growth.

Plaid Cymru is launching a very similar idea today, and comes after the launch of a review by Business Minister Edwina Hart on whether or not high street banks are meeting the needs of small Welsh firms.

According to the Tories successful loan applications fell by 24 per cent in the UK between 2007 and 2010, while the Federation of Small Businesses reported that Wales has the lowest business confidence of any region of mainland UK.

Tories claim the Welsh Government’s Finance Wales body, which operates several grant schemes, has failed to engage with the business sector.

The party says it would reform it and put in place a new funding model localised in six regions of Wales to boost the understanding of the economic challenges in each part of Wales.

Shadow minister for business and enterprise, and AM for Monmouth Nick Ramsay said: “Small and medium businesses are telling us that the greatest barrier to prosperity is the ability to borrow money from the banks.

“Welsh Conservatives have listened to the concerns of Welsh businesses and are proposing a radical shake-up in the way funding is accessed.”

Plaid Cymru economy spokesman Alun Ffred Jones is also calling for a regionalised Bank of Wales to help small and medium-size businesses grow.