MP demands answers from Treasury over Northern Rock Foundation demise

The Northern Echo: MP demands answers from Treasury over Northern Rock Foundation demise MP demands answers from Treasury over Northern Rock Foundation demise

A NORTH-East MP who led a campaign to protect the Northern Rock Foundation will try to force a Treasury minister to Parliament to answer questions over its demise.

Gateshead Labour MP Ian Mearns plans to table an urgent question on the closure of the North-East's biggest charity when the Commons returns next week (Tuesday, April 29).

His effort follows yesterday's announcement that talks between the Foundation and its sole funder, Virgin Money, had failed and it would be wound up.

Back in 2011, when the Government was looking to sell of the then-publicly owned Northern Rock, Mr Mearns tabled a parliamentary motion calling on ministers to give the Foundation stronger support, which won the backing of 41 MPs.

Today, he said: "Everything we forecast would happen, has happened.

"The reassurances given by (Treasury minister) Mark Hoban now ring very hollow. The sell-off was done at the wrong time and on the cheap."

Mr Mearns said the Treasury could have made ongoing support for the Foundation a condition of the Rock's sale.

A Treasury spokesman said the Government was aware of the "good work" of the Northern Rock Foundation and that was why it secured a commitment from Virgin Money that it would continue to fund it until the end of 2013.

The Government is sorry no future funding agreement has been reached, but this is a matter for Virgin Money, he added.

The Foundation has handed out more than £200m over the last 16 years, supporting hundreds of good causes.

In 2000 it gave £1m towards the establishment of the Sage Gateshead and Dominic Parker, from the Sage, said it had made a huge impact across the region and its closure was a great shame.

"This puts more focus on trying to get funding from London, but the difficulty for the North-East is it's hard for some charities to get noticed by London funders," he said.

The Foundation's funding has plummeted from around £25m a year when Gosforth-based Northern Rock was booming. Virgin Money has donated £1.5m since it bought the failed bank for £747m in 2012.

Virgin Money says it tried hard to find a way to continue working with the Foundation and would continue to support the North-East community strongly in a variety of ways.

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