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Barclays launches local economies programme

Barclays launches local economies programme

Barclays is to join forces with local authorities to boost economic growth, the bank has said.

With a five year programme called 'Building Thriving Local Economies', launched by Barclays CEO Ashok Vaswani, the bank aims to ensure small towns become stronger contributors to the national economy.

Mr Vaswani said: "At a time of economic uncertainty, we need to ensure that every part of the UK can thrive in order that our whole country can prosper.

"We see pockets of high growth in our major cities but more needs to be done to support towns like Bury to become stronger engines of local and national prosperity.

"There is no single lever that national governments or central banks can pull to drive economic growth. […] We need to look at how we build a thriving economy ‘from the local up’ not from the national down."

The programme will take place in four pilot areas: a metropolitan borough, a rural community, a coastal area and a small town.

In each area, Barclays will undertake research to get a better understanding of the local economies' strengths and challenges.

The bank will then share its findings with the local authorities to build an action plan.

Bury, in Greater Manchester, has been chosen as the first local economy. As the first step, the bank will try to raise aspirations of school children by providing a version of the bank's LifeSkills programme.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: "I can’t wait to see how the work in Bury progresses. I am pleased by the commitment that Barclays is showing to Bury with their Thriving Local Economies initiative. A three-year partnership with businesses, schools and the local authority will, I hope, see the community continue to thrive."

Jake Berry, Conservative MP for Rossendale and Darwen and northern powerhouse minister, said: "The northern powerhouse is about creating jobs and economic growth - initiatives such as Barclays’ ‘Building Thriving Local Economies’ play a critical role in supporting this."

Martin Bamford, managing director at Informed Choice, said: "This looks like a positive project, recognising that different local economies each have different challenges to overcome. By tailoring support to the unique challenges faced by a particular local economy, Barclays should be able to make a meaningful impact in each area.

"Banks do play an important role in the local economy but should take the lead from local business organisations and even local authorities, who are increasingly motivated to create a thriving environment for business, with government changes to rates collections and local authority funding."