Support the Rock

GOOD causes in the North have received £175m from Northern Rock in the past 10 years – and now is the time, The Journal believes, to help repay that support.

From left, Jonathan Wells, MD of Guroo Ltd, Maggie Pavlou, President of the North East Chamber of Commerce, Sarah Green, Regional Director CBI North East, James Ramsbotham, Chief Exec NECC, and Nigel Wilson, Public Affairs Director, Canon UK after opening accounts at the Rock.

GOOD causes in the North have received £175m from Northern Rock in the past 10 years – and now is the time, The Journal believes, to help repay that support.

More than 1,500 charities, community groups and arts clubs have been kept afloat, recruited staff, repaired their village halls and helped some of the most vulnerable members of society with donations from the bank’s charitable foundation.

Last night the Chancellor moved to guarantee all deposits in the bank as withdrawals continued yesterday and the bank’s share price continued to fall.

Now we are calling on the region to rally around a true North-East institution. We are asking members and supporters of all those organisations who have been helped by Northern Rock and its foundation, as well as Journal 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 that every organisation that Northern Rock and its foundation have supported 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.

Yesterday those groups began volunteering their support to the bank, which employs 4,700 people in the North-East alone.

Ray Spencer, executive director of the Customs House theatre in South Shields, said: “Northern Rock has given us something like £250,000 over the years.

“The entire cultural scene in the region would be vastly different if there was no Northern Rock.

“People need to support this company to ensure it doesn’t leave the region.”

Caroline Mullen, manager of the Shilbottle Skills Centre in Northumberland, which provides training in the village and received £76,000 from the Northern Rock Foundation, said: “Without them it is very unlikely we would be here.

“The company definitely has my support, it has been so good to this region.”

Richard Mantle, chairman of directors at Opera North, said: “Northern Rock Foundation has provided us with funding for the last three years and we have just agreed a deal for the next three. They are one of the most enlightened companies in the region when dealing with the arts and working with them we are constantly challenged to come up with new projects.

“I just wish every company was as good and easy to work with, I’ve got nothing bad to say about them.”

Huw Davies, creative arts director of the Berwick Film and Media Arts Festival, said: “In terms of support for culture and the arts in the North-East Northern Rock is massive.

“If it wasn’t for them the sustainability of the Berwick film festival and lots of other projects would not be possible.

“We have funding from Northern Rock for the next three years and that enables us to plan things and ensure that the festival happens every year.

“They are an essential part of arts and culture in the North-East.”

Dawn Cranswick, voluntary and community services director at Project North East said: “At the beginning of 2004 we got a grant of £1.8m from the foundation which we have used to support 766 organisations in the region.

“We have used the money to provide training in skills for over 2,000 people.”

Page 2: Investors cash will be secured

Investors cash will be secured

THE Government last night promised to guarantee all money deposited with Northern Rock.

The bank said it will refund withdrawal charges to customers who have emptied their accounts if they wish to return.

The financial lifeline

emerged after business leaders yesterday demanded the Government provides real security to people worried about their savings.

Under the previous rules the maximum amount any customer could be guaranteed to be compensated should the bank go into administration was £31,700.

The limited security offered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme had led customers to withdraw more than £2bn since Friday.

But after a day of pressure the Chancellor Alistair Darling finally promised the Government would step in to protect customers’ accounts if the bank collapsed.

Mr Darling said: "I want to put the matter beyond doubt. In the current market circumstances, and because of the importance I place on maintaining a stable banking system and public confidence in it, I can announce today that following discussions with the Governor and the Chairman of the Financial Services Authority, should it be necessary, we, with the Bank of England, would put in place arrangements that would guarantee all the existing deposits in Northern Rock during the current instability in the financial markets. This means that people can continue to take their money out of Northern Rock. But if they choose to leave their money in Northern Rock, it will be guaranteed safe and secure."

A spokesman for the Treasury said the Chancellor’s assurances would cover both existing customers and any opening accounts from today. In a statement to the Stock Exchange the bank welcomed the move, and added it was not currently discussing any takeover offers.

The bank said: "The Chancellor’s statement makes it clear beyond any doubt that all savings in Northern Rock are safe and secure.

"Consequently anybody who is in a queue outside a branch, or who is trying to access an online account can be fully reassured that there is no cause for concern whatsoever. Any customer who paid a penalty to withdraw their funds from Northern Rock, due to concern over the current situation, will have the penalty refunded if they reinvest those funds in the same type of account with Northern Rock by October 5."

In the hours leading up to the Chancellor’s announcement the North-East Chamber of Commerce had urged the Government to cover more than just the 90% of loses under £35,000. Chief Executive James Ramsbotham had called for the Mr Darling to "apply the brakes on customers’ knee-jerk reaction."

Mr Ramsbotham, pictured left, said: "Alistair Darling has come out strongly over the weekend in defence of Northern Rock and in support of the solidity of its business."

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