Let’s echo faith our bank puts in North

THE queues outside Northern Rock may have disappeared, but today The Journal calls for the North’s support for the bank to stay as strong as ever.

Percy Hedley Sports Academy

THE queues outside Northern Rock may have disappeared, but today The Journal calls for the North’s support for the bank to stay as strong as ever.

While the phenomenal backing from the region has seen the bank through its darkest days in the past week, there is still a long fight ahead.

Fresh takeover speculation last night saw Northern Rock shares take another battering, down 28% to 185.2p, giving it a stock market valuation of about £780m.

It had been worth £2.7bn before news of its emergency funding request to the Bank of England sparked a dramatic slide in its value last Friday.

Those who have benefited from the bank’s unique charitable foundation yesterday voiced fears that new owners could never show such support for the region it calls home.

And The Journal is today launching a new push in our appeal to back the bank, its 4,500 staff in the North-East and the 1,500 charities and community groups to whom its foundation has given £175m in the past 10 years.

Recent days have seen a number of big names lead the drive to open new accounts with Northern Rock, while businesses and organisations in the North-East and Cumbria have been sending our rallying call to their own networks of colleagues, contacts and friends.

Many have contacted us to request a copy of our striking front page which they have passed on to their own mailing list.

Call (0191) 201-6007 or email jnl.newsdesk@ncjmedia.co.uk for your own version.

The Journal editor Brian Aitken said: “The queues have gone, but that doesn’t mean Northern Rock doesn’t need our help any more. The bank and its staff need our help as much as they did at the beginning of the week. It’s good to see our message is being spread and is making its way around the North-East, but we must not rest on our laurels and we will carry on showing our unwavering support for this North-East institution.

“This bank means something to the people of this region. It has participated and helped people’s lives.

“We must stand shoulder to shoulder with it.”

Last night, five North-East athletes were training before their trip to Japan to represent England in the Powerchair Football World Cup next month. The Northern Thunder team members all represent the pioneering Percy Hedley Academy for Disability Sports, in Killingworth, North Tyneside – built with Northern Rock Foundation money.

Percy Hedley Foundation appeals director Des Bustard said the £150,000 grant was the catalyst that attracted the support needed to fund the £1m centre. He is one of many readers who are passing on The Journal’s rallying call to their contacts.

He said: “This is a wonderful campaign and we would love to help in any way we can. The company and foundation have given great support over the years and if they’re not here, if it’s not a North-based company, then neither is that support. The team is going to Japan next month and without the support of Northern Rock, that wouldn’t be happening.

“The academy provides a base for these Powerchair sports, for training and for regional and national competitions. We’re also hoping to be a base for the 2012 Paralympics.

“It was the Northern Rock Foundation’s vision in backing our plans that really established this as a pioneering centre, both regionally and nationally. They took the lead in funding and others followed.”

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The Journal campaign

THE JOURNAL is calling on the region to rally around Northern Rock, asking members and supporters of all those organisations who have been
helped by Northern Rock and its foundation, as well as our readers and the wider North-East community, to demonstrate their faith and confidence by opening an account with Northern Rock.

You can do it for just £1, or as many more as you like.

And we ask every organisation that Northern Rock and its foundation have supported to use its mailing list to encourage others to open an account too.

Our front page launching the campaign is available in an electronic file which you can request by contacting The Journal newsdesk on (0191) 201-6344 or jnl.newsdesk@ncjmedia.co.uk – to send on to your network of contacts, and for them to pass on.

The latest organisations to join the campaign yesterday include the Percy Hedley Foundation, ippr north, the Centre for Life and The Sage Gateshead, which has passed on our front page to all of its 400-plus staff.

Des Bustard, (CORR) Percy Hedley Foundation appeals director, said: “I’m more than happy to pass on The Journal’s front page to help build up support.

“It’s important that as many people as possible get to hear about the campaign.”

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New accounts get basic safety net

NEW accounts opened at Northern Rock will not be covered by the Treasury’s cast-iron savings guarantee.

Instead they will be limited to the protection given by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), so only the first £2,000 will be fully secured, should the bank collapse.

The FSA would refund 90% of remaining funds up to £35,000, with no assurances for any funds over that amount.

A Treasury spokesman said it would only protect accounts created before midnight on September 19.

Any account opened since then would not have the same protection as those opened on Wednesday.

The Treasury statement came three days after Chancellor Alistair Darling moved to dissuade customers from withdrawing funds from the bank by offering to refund every penny lost, should the bank collapse. The Treasury statement said: “Since it would otherwise be unfair to other banks and building societies, the arrangements would not cover any new accounts set up after September 19.”

With the Government effectively offering to nationalise the troubled bank, Northern Rock enjoyed a few days as the UK’s safest bank.

A Northern Rock spokesman said: “This further clarifies and improves the situation for Northern Rock savers.”

The Treasury made clear its guarantee did not cover bonds and other IOUs issued by Northern Rock to other financial institutions.

Unite union officers at Northern Rock yesterday met senior management to seek job assurances.

Northern Rock said it would do its best to stand by its workforce.

DOZENS of extra Northern Rock accounts were being opened yesterday as Newcastle consultant MBA started recruiting its network of contacts.

Director of the organisation, which trains voluntary groups, Mark Butcher, emailed 2,500 people to drum up more support for the bank. For every account opened by his contacts, Mark is offering a free copy of an MBA expert e-book on management. Last night, he already had more than 20 opening accounts.

He told them: “Northern Rock Plc is the sole funder of the Northern Rock Foundation. In terms of practice and excellence this foundation is at the forefront of charitable institutions in the UK. …This marvellous institution needs a strong plc if it is to help the many thousands of people who benefit each year.”

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Aid ideas influence whole nation

SIX years ago, the Northern Rock Foundation gave a £1m loan to the quickly-emerging Centre for Life in Newcastle.

The cash helped develop the land next to it and bring more investment to the city. The site now has a multi-storey car park, offices, an NHS walk-in centre and Jury’s Inn Hotel.

Centre for Life chief executive Linda Conlon said: “The Northern Rock Foundation has supported us in a major way and they continue to do so.

“They’ve helped us to achieve our two aims – to effectively communicate science to the public and to support world-class science research here at the Centre for Life. The North-East is lucky to have a charitable foundation that has so generously supported dozens of organisations in the region and beyond. We’re extremely grateful for their support and we’re happy to help Northern Rock in any way we can.”

The Sage Gateshead was built with the help of £1m from the foundation. Sage director of marketing Lucy Bird said: “The Northern Rock Foundation’s focus on the North-East and Cumbria is pioneering and exceptional.

“It challenges traditional perceptions of philanthropy by its commitment to inform the thinking and planning of regional and national policy makers, leads new initiatives like its “big ideas pot” supporting a different theme each year. It covers everything from the £1m support to the Sage Gateshead’s endowment fund to underpin all our work in music, to penal reform, the regeneration of the coalfields and those communities affected by the foot-and-mouth crisis.”

The foundation also helped set up the region’s only policy think tank, ippr north, and gives three-year funding of £191,018.

Ippr north director Sue Stirling said: “Northern Rock Foundation, through its generous donations, has supported the region socially, economically, and culturally.”


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer