AS speculation of a buyout at Northern Rock grew last night, scores of MPs and councillors told how they were standing firm by the North-East institution.
Financial experts expect the crisis-hit mortgage bank to be taken over, but the news has led to mounting fears over the future for its 5,700 employees in the region and its charitable arm, the Northern Rock Foundation.
In light of the predictions and as the foundation revealed it was appointing independent financial advisers to monitor the situation, leading figures spoke out to urge shareholders and the Government to do everything they could to preserve the company as a whole, as a regional institution.
It emerged last night that the city council has already discussed with regional development agencies and Minister for the North-East Nick Brown what can be done to save the bank.
Newcastle City Council deputy leader Coun David Faulkner said: “We’ve already talked to regional development agencies and the minister for the region about doing everything we can to retain as much as practically possible for the North-East, including the company headquarters and the call centres.
“The region has a shortage of companies based in the region and we want to protect those we have.”
These sentiments were echoed by MPs, who last night told The Journal they supported our campaign to back the Rock and were doing what they could to preserve its North-East heritage. Durham City MP Roberta Blackman-Woods, who said she was intent on opening an account with the bank, said she would talk to colleagues in the region to put forward an early day motion to protect the Rock.
Labour MP for Tynemouth Alan Campbell added: “It’s a North-East institution and we need to protect the workforce. The Government gave it breathing space, but now we need to do what we can to ensure it survives and flourishes.”
Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell also spoke of the importance of protecting the company’s North-East workforce.
He vowed: “I will be asking Government to see what it can do to protect those jobs. The Government has to protect them.”
Hilary Armstrong, MP for Durham North-West, said: “We have to work on the strengths in order to ensure that Northern Rock gets its best deal for investors, that includes the people in the North-East and its workers.
Newcastle North MP Doug Henderson said he would talk to Work and Pensions Secretary John Hutton about what could be done to preserve thousands of jobs.
Blaydon MP Dave Anderson said: “It is imperative that Northern Rock remains a going concern. We need to do everything we can to give it the same support it has given to our region over many years.” Tory MP for Hexham Peter Atkinson said: “People are re-opening accounts and the mortgage books are very solid. The brand can recover.”
The MPs’ support came as Northern Rock Foundation’s chairman of trustees Alastair Balls urged shareholders to ensure any takeover bid was “fair and reasonable”.
He added: “We are concerned to see that a transaction is not concluded on unfavourable terms, simply to meet a self-imposed timetable, to the detriment of the charity, its work and jobs in the North.”
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