A business manager said repayments on a £ 50,000 loan to save his business destroyed his relationship and damaged his mental health.
Anne-Mari Niemela, who runs FoxPrint, a company that employs nine people in Shepshed and Swadlincote, took the maximum out of the Bounce Back loan program which spanned the first year of the pandemic.
The deal was that the bank loans would be guaranteed by the government – but that repayments would start after just 12 months.
Read more business stories on Leicestershire Live
Many companies took the money hoping that the first foreclosure would be the last and that the economy would recover by the time the repayments were due.
But many, like FoxPrint, now have to repay the money while they still struggle because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ms Niemela said: “The government has moved the goal posts several times. It is very disturbing and stressful to have these loans hanging over your head.
“We thought our business would be up and running very quickly, but the repeated blockages meant everything was stopped / started. It didn’t give us any luck.
“It has affected the mental health of many people.
“I think the government has exploited people’s sense of hopelessness and panic.
“It is a desperate situation, because we are also always trying to reimburse the VAT that we owe in parallel.
“I am now on antidepressants and my relationship with my partner has broken down due to all the stress.
“I want to share my experiences with business leaders in similar positions and try to do them justice through this campaign. “
She is expected to appear alongside Back British Business CEO Wasif Mahmood at a roadshow at the Leicester Novotel hotel next week to urge other business leaders to join the campaign.
The campaign argues that political leaders are failing to cope with the extreme pressures currently facing struggling UK businesses that took out such loans during the Covid-19 crisis – and believe it may save those who are now crippled by debt.
Mr Mahmood said: “The government has started a process by which it has approached the banks and told them it will guarantee their loans.
“A lot of companies weren’t aware of this and thought the warranty was directly for them.
“Normally, when you take out a loan from a bank, it is protected by consumer credit law which allows you to have a voice in the matter against any injustice on the part of major lenders that can sometimes arise.
“The government removed the protection and armor of the Consumer Credit Act from the BBL program. There was also an attempt to remove the protections that are also granted under the Financial Services Markets Act. from 2000.
“But there is always a way to challenge these particular loans on the basis of what is called common law. Courts can consider whether or not it is fair that these loans should be repaid in whole or in part using equitable principles.
“We are using the law in this way because we believe it is our duty to help rebuild UK businesses and the economy of this country.”
The roadshow will take place at The Davenport Suite at the Novotel hotel in Great Central Square, Leicester LE1 4JS on January 20, 6-8 p.m.
For more information visit www.backbritishbusiness.com
Responding to the campaign, a government spokesperson said: “Since the start of the pandemic, our priority has been to protect jobs and livelihoods, which is why we have acted quickly to launch these programs, which have helped over a million businesses.
“We have always been clear that these are loans, not grants, while ensuring that businesses can repay their loans on terms that work best for them through our Pay as you Grow measures. “
Keep up to date with the latest news with our email alerts delivered straight to your inbox. register here