December 21, 2020 @ 15:22 by Steven Hugill
A mutual says it has repaid hundreds of thousands of pounds of Government furlough money after weathering the COVID-19 storm.
Newcastle Building Society has given back funds handed out from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Bosses say the mutual used just under £600,000 to protect jobs when the pandemic forced the economy into lockdown and its business activities were severely affected.
However, they say that as activity picked up over the summer, the majority of furloughed staff returned to their roles in July, with everyone brought back by September.
Andrew Haigh, chief executive, said the business has since seen a strong recovery in trading conditions, and has not needed to make any related redundancies.
He said: “The Government’s furlough scheme was a helpful and timely initiative, which eased concerns about keeping colleagues in their jobs and protecting livelihoods through a period of widespread and extreme uncertainty.
“Now that we have seen a much more stable operating environment and a strong recovery in the housing market since those early days of the pandemic, we are pleased to be in a position where Newcastle Building Society can return the funds with thanks.
“With so many other sectors struggling to operate effectively through the many challenges presented by the pandemic, we very much felt that this was the appropriate action for us to take.”
Andrew added that throughout the pandemic, the mutual has provided substantial financial assistance to its communities.
As part of a 2020 commitment to communities totalling £1.5 million, he said it has maintained a significant regional community support programme of grants to charities and individuals seriously impacted by COVID-19.
He said it has also invested heavily in transforming ways of working to enable the majority of its office-based colleagues to work from home and kept open all but one of its 31 branches across the North East, Cumbria and North Yorkshire, providing COVID-19-safe environments and ongoing access for essential financial transactions, while implementing video appointments for financial advice customers.