The amount of money lent by banks to UK firms fell in every quarter of 2011, new figures from the Bank of England show. Year-on-year net lending fell 2.8%, 3.7%, 0.1% and 3% across the four quarters in 2011. It followed news on Friday that five major banks - Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, RBS and Santander - missed their targets for offering finance to small and medium firms under the Project Merlin agreement. Gross lending by the five banks to small and medium firms last year was £74.9bn, against a target of £76bn, although overall lending, at £214.9bn, exceeded the £190bn target. Phil Orford, chief executive of the Forum for Private Business, said: “The banks have missed the lending targets for small firms, but not by such a huge amount as suggested by the number of small firms who still complain to us about problems accessing high street finance. This we know is still a burning issue for many SMEs [small and medium enterprises]. “What perhaps muddies the water and makes the bank’s failure here less clear cut though is that overall demand for bank finance is down. Many companies have been simply looking to survive or consolidate over the past year rather than seeking credit to expand. “The onus now is really with the banks to get the ball rolling. They need to reach out further to business and repair the damaged relationship with firms who are essentially their core customers.”