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Thursday, 18 December 2014

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Charities face uncertain future after Northern Rock Foundation closure

Charities in Cumbria face an uncertain future after the collapse of the Northern Rock Foundation.

Mandy Johnston photo
Mandy Johnston

The organisation is to close after failing to reach an agreement with Virgin Money, which took over the Northern Rock bank.

It had provided hundreds of thousands of pounds of funding for charities throughout Cumbria and the north east.

But many services and jobs could now be under threat following the foundation’s demise.

Mary Bradley, chief executive of Age UK West Cumbria, said: “It’s a really sad day for us.

“Northern Rock always focuses on northern charities which don’t have the same access to funding as those in other parts of the country.

“They have always been key to us.”

The foundation funds a dementia scheme run by the charity in Cockermouth.

The three-year project, which is still in its first year, is aimed at changing attitudes to people with dementia.

But Ms Bradley fears the initiative could be cut short if the foundation is no longer able to provide funding.

She explained: “It would have to stop and one member of staff would have to be made redundant.

“A lot of work funded by Northern Rock would never be provided by statutory agencies.

“It means we will have to turn to other sources, such as the National Lottery, for grants, which puts more pressure on them.

“How dare Richard Branson not fund it [the foundation]?”

Carlisle and District Credit Union was granted £28,300 for its two-year Managing Money programme last year.

Manager Mandy Johnston said it was very sad that the credit union will no longer have a relationship with the foundation.

She said: “It will be very sad for a lot of charities – we’ve had a fantastic relationship with them.

“We have had funding for various projects and the foundation has always been really fabulous and helpful.

“We have always valued what they say.

“The foundation has given colossal amounts of funding to the north east and Cumbria so it will be a huge miss,” she added.

The foundation, which was formed in 1997, says talks with Virgin Money broke down because they couldn’t agree over where grants should go.

It will now begin an “orderly wind down” process.

Chairman Alastair Balls said: “Trustees are keen to ensure that our remaining funds are used to achieve significant benefit in the north east and Cumbria and we will announce our plans later this year.”

Virgin Money insists it has “tried hard” to find a way to keep working with the foundation on programmes that would deliver “significant benefit” to the region.

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