Concerns over cash flow are on the rise among small businesses, according to a new study.

Forum of Private Business (FPB) research revealed that 38% of SMEs admitted that cash flow was the primary cause of concern to their business right now, up from 33% in 2012.

The survey also revealed that 23% of respondents saw access to finance as the primary concern to their business, up from 17% last year, while the cost of finance as a concern rose from 6% in 2012 to 8% this year.

FPB chief executive Phil Orford said the increase in concern was due to a lack of finance being made available by lenders.

“Taken in a wider context these results are alarming because it suggests a marked deterioration in SME confidence in their finances,” he said. “We suspect this is as a result of the banks’ on-going failure to deliver affordable finance to small firms, and the fact businesses are increasingly worried about cash flow. These are issues borne of credit being scarce and difficult to obtain – the recently announced OFT investigation in to the lack business lending by the banks underlines this.”

It also polled SMEs on attitudes to banks in several key areas, with ratings from 1 to 5, with anything over 3 classed as harmful to their business.

Bank charges scored the highest with an average rating of 3.6 – up from 3.23 on identical Forum research undertaken in 2006. Collateral requirements averaged 3.2, up from 2.88 while the reduction or the calling in of loans and overdraft was up from 3.16 to 3.5. The availability of finance saw the biggest increase, rising from 2.43 to 3.3.

“It really isn’t good enough that the banks are now actually regarded as being harmful to SMEs in so many different ways, not just the lack of lending anymore,” added Orford.

In an effort to help lenders improve support to businesses, the FPB set out a list of recommendations including smarter regulation of current and future providers, less centralisation with more responsibility for local bank managers and more reasonable banking charges and collateral requirements.