RICHARD Branson's Virgin Money has pledged to continue supporting the Northern Rock Foundation if it buys the Northern Rock bank.
Chief executive Jayne-Anne Gadhia said the Foundation was “incredibly important” and that any bidder for the bank should ensure its work continued.
She has even written on online social media network Twitter supporting a Commons motion – tabled by Gateshead MP Ian Mearns – stressing the importance of the Foundation after Chancellor George Osborne decided to put the bank up for sale last month.
The previous Labour Government agreed to give the Foundation £15m a year after the bank was nationalised in 2008. It will now only get 1% of any pre-tax profits as the Rock most recently posted a £232m loss – and that is not guaranteed to continue after any sale.
But Ms Gadhia said: “The Northern Rock Foundation is an incredibly important part of the overall Government divestment of the Northern Rock business. The work the Foundation has done to support good causes in the North East is significant and any buyer needs to ensure that work continues.
“Our interest in the Northern Rock business is long stated and well known. Should we take that interest further the Foundation will be supported.”
Her comments come amid speculation that Coventry Building Society, Co-operative Financial Services, buyout vehicle NBNK and buy-to-let mortgage lender Paragon could all bid for Northern Rock.
Gateshead MP Ian Mearns said: “I obviously welcome any legitimate interest. But at the same time we want to safeguard the Foundation.
“My questions would be is now the best time to sell in terms of getting a return for the public investment, but also in terms of securing the future of the bank? I think the Government has significant questions to answer.”
The Labour MP is set to lead a delegation to meet Treasury Minister Mark Hoban to discuss the future of the Foundation in the next few weeks.
And he will be armed with the fact that 33 other MPs from across the political divide have backed his Commons motion urging the Chancellor to make continued support for the Foundation a condition of any sale of the Northern Rock bank.