Barclays launches major Northern Powerhouse boost £500M fund to help Northern SMEs invest in jobs and growth

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Barclays has launched a new £500m growth fund for small and medium-sized businesses in the North of England as part of the bank’s commitment to support the Government’s Northern Powerhouse initiative.

The new fund is available from today to inject investment into businesses across the region with favourable terms for manufacturing, transport and logistics companies, helping them to grow and create new jobs.

Launching the fund, Jes Staley, Barclays Group CEO, said: “Barclays has been helping businesses across the North to succeed since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, when we financed the world’s first steam locomotive passenger railway between Stockton and Darlington. Today, we face new economic challenges and opportunities posed by the digital revolution, the growth in competition from emerging markets, and of course, Brexit."

“The Northern Powerhouse is an initiative which, if delivered, would help the whole country to meet that challenge and take those economic opportunities. That is why I’m delighted to announce our £500 million Northern Powerhouse Growth Fund, enabling businesses across the North to invest in jobs and growth."

“As the UK prepares for Brexit, it’s vitally important that businesses, civic leaders and Government work together to make the Northern Powerhouse a reality. That means supporting entrepreneurs and businesses to succeed, but it also means providing more ways into high quality work.”

The new fund was announced by Jes Staley as he visited Thornton Brothers Limited, in Ashington, Northumberland. The business was founded by two brothers George and Keith Thornton in 1979, who started out with £25,000 of lending from their local Barclays branch. They have since built up the business, which now employs over 70 highly-skilled engineers who modernise fleets of buses for major transport providers around the whole of the UK, including Transport for London, Go-Ahead and First Group Ltd.

George Thornton, co-founder of Thornton Brothers Limited, said: “Our family-run business was founded 40 years ago with the help of a loan from Barclays, which is why it’s so fantastic to see a growth fund of this size being launched today to help other entrepreneurs just like us. We specialise in bus refurbishment, serving a number of transport providers from across the country, helping them to modernise their fleets and serve communities.

“This fund will be a real boost to businesses just like ours across the North of England. Gaining access to finance over the years has enabled us to grow our business, hire a number of skilled engineers and build a new state of the art garage with some of the best specialist facilities of their kind in the UK.”

Later, Jes Staley also met Barclays apprentices at one of the bank’s major contact centres in Doxford International Business Park, near Sunderland. The centre employs 1,600 people in customer support roles doing everything from providing mortgages, to helping to fight fraud against customers, to advising small businesses. The company has already doubled the number of apprentices it has hired in Sunderland in 2018 in comparison to last year.

During the visit, Jes Staley announced a pilot scheme for new retail entry roles in the bank’s Sunderland and Liverpool contact centres to be focused towards apprenticeships first.

Jes Staley said: “Our new apprentice first hiring policy, which we’re piloting in our flagship contact centres, will help to provide more of those high quality jobs. We’ve discovered at Barclays that the ‘can-do’ attitude our apprentices have means they are excellent at helping our customers and clients. We want more people to have the life-changing career opportunity that a quality apprenticeship provides.”

Chris Oglesby, CEO of Bruntwood and a member of the NPP board, said: “Funding is a huge issue for any business wanting to scale and we welcome the focus Barclays is giving to emerging sectors such as AI and robotics. Having spent over a decade investing in science and technology ourselves, unlocking growth and future-proofing our economy are at the core of Bruntwood and we regard the support of Britain’s financial institutions as sending all the right signals to global markets.”

Northern Powerhouse Partnership Vice-Chair and leading economist Lord Jim O’Neill said: “I have consistently said that for the Northern Powerhouse to be a success and deliver a more balanced economy for the whole of the UK requires the support and vision of the North’s leading businesses."

“This major fund from Barclays will significantly increase the potential of our SMEs across the Northern Powerhouse to embrace the next Industrial Revolution, incorporating innovation such as robotics and AI into everything they do."

“There is real momentum growing in the Northern Powerhouse, and I hope the commitment Barclays and their CEO Jes Staley have demonstrated today will be matched by our political leaders in Whitehall so the Northern Powerhouse can truly fulfil its potential.”

Metro Mayor for Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram, who visited Barclays' contact centre in Wavertree to welcome the news, said: “For the Northern Powerhouse to thrive, it needs cross-sector support. The announcement by Barclays today has demonstrated that the Powerhouse has the backing of big business – and that is most welcome."

"On the apprenticeships front, Barclays really are leading by example. Their commitment to skills and apprenticeships – particularly degree-level apprenticeships – aligns perfectly with my vision of a city region that prioritises, promotes, and produces high-skill, high-value jobs. Their programme has my full support going forward.”

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