Virgin Money has been accused of trying to blame charity trustees for the collapse of one of the region’s biggest charitable funding arrangements.
Richard Branson’s Newcastle-based bank this week confirmed it had ended a funding agreement in which it had promised 1% of of pre-tax profits would go to the Northern Rock Foundation.
While the bank had handed over £1.5m to the charity – more than was originally agreed – it has decided not to continue directly funding the Foundation. The decision prompted outrage from many Labour MPs, with Durham’s Kevan Jones calling for a bank boycott.
Now Virgin Money has written to the MP to suggest, he said, that the blame lies with the Foundation. Chief executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia said she was “surprised and disappointed” that the Foundation turned down new options for supporting good causes in the region.
The Foundation though has indicated it only failed to reach an agreement on new arrangements after the bank had made clear there would never again be a direct hand over of cash. With that off the table, the only options hinted at where either for the two sides to jointly back some projects or even for the Foundation to abandon its local roots and become a national charity for Virgin Money.
Mr Jones aid that with the bank taking away cash and then blaming the bank for not wanting the second best options on offer, the chief executive’s words seemed “a little heartless.”
He told The Journal: “It is bad enough that Virgin Money is withdrawing funding from the Foundation, but to try and switch the blame for this to the Foundation is out of order.”
The Foundation snub story has so refused to go away, with MPs hitting out and questions around the decision to axe the agreement expected from Labour as Parliament resumes next week.
Last night a spokesman for Virgin Money said: “Having supported the Northern Rock Foundation with £1.5m of donations over the last two years, Virgin Money tried hard to find a way to continue working with the Foundation on programmes that would deliver significant benefit to the North East and Cumbria regions.
“We were surprised and disappointed that the Foundation did not want to pursue any of the proposals, including the creation of a Housing Regeneration and Social Enterprise fund, which would have involved substantial investment from Virgin Money.
“This was the Foundation’s decision, not Virgin Money’s. We are committed to continue to support the North East community strongly in a variety of ways.”