Banks bailed out by the taxpayer are still not doing enough to help small businesses, it has been claimed.

All the “big four” high street banks reported their half-year financial results last week with HSBC and Barclays the strongest performers, enjoying profits of £7 billion and £3.9 billion respectively.

But all eyes were on the two partially state-controlled banks.

Lloyds Banking Group, 40% owned by the taxpayer, produced better-than-expected profits of £1.6 billion while Royal Bank of Scotland scraped a slim £9 million surplus against a £1.04 billion loss a year earlier.

Both have attracted the anger of business owners, who think lending criteria is far too tight.

Malcolm Harvey, secretary of the Brighton branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), looks after 1,600 members in Brighton and Hove and 2,000 in Mid Sussex.

He said two long-established architects applied to Lloyds for an overdraft because, although they were billing £50,000 a month, they were not being paid for 96 days by their clients.

They were initially given £30,000 with an interest rate of 9.5% but were recently told this would be cut to £20,000 and the rate increased to 12.5%. Mr Harvey said: “The excuse Lloyds gave was that they were ‘building related’ but that’s just nonsense.”

The architects ended up leaving Lloyds as they secured an £80,000 overdraft with a fixed rate of 3% through the FSB itself.

Mr Harvey said other businesses were having dreadful problems with RBS-owned Natwest. He said: “One woman bought the freehold of her shop with a mortgage of 2% over base rate, which was pretty good. But three weeks ago Natwest increased the rate to 3.5%.

“It doesn’t sound likemuch but she’s paying a third more.”

Graham Lord is accounts manager with IT First in Burgess Hill, which has been banking with Lloyds for more than 20 years.

He approached the bank with the idea of setting up a training and consultancy company for the security industry. He said: “They had no interest at all. They seemed to have no motivation at all in helping to grow our business. It was particularity strange because it would have been no financial risk to them at all until we secured our first contracts.”

IT First then turned to HSBC, which “jumped at the chance”

according to Mr Lord.

The company is now in the process of transferring all its banking to HSBC.

Mr Lord said: “It’s a real shame because the managers in charge day to day are extremely good and we would have liked to have stayed with them.”

Andy Lee, Sussex area director for Lloyds Commercial, said the bank had hit its Governmentappointed gross lending targets nationally and eight out of ten propositions were approved.

He said: “Locally my net lending balance is higher than last year and that is in a very flat economy. But it is a difficult economy and there will be times when, for one reason or another, we feel unable to fulfil a customer’s request.”

A spokesman for Natwest said it was doing everything it could to lend to viable businesses.

He said: “We continue to approve 17 out of every 20 applications for credit but demand is muted.

“In terms of us making credit available, our customers currently have access to undrawn credit facilities totalling £45 billion.”