Signs of success in region but a 'flat' year ahead

BRITAIN faces a "flat" economy next year but companies in food, agriculture and manufacturing are helping the region create jobs and prosperity, a senior Yorkshire banker has said.

Richard Norrington, Yorkshire Bank's Eastern regional director for integrated financial solutions, said he thought the country would avoid a double-dip recession despite fears over the coalition's austerity measures.

Mr Norrington, a banker of more than 20 years' experience, said the cuts meant there were some opportunities for businesses to innovate and perform some of the functions of the public sector as the State contracts.

He said Britain would avoid slumping back into recession next year.

"My personal view would be that we are looking at a fairly flat economy. I think it would be wrong to be wildly optimistic (but) I am not of the double-dip view. It has been a very difficult two or three years.

"The public sector cuts are absolutely already having an effect and will continue to have an effect."

The Eastern area patch goes from Newcastle to Norwich, including Yorkshire, and Mr Norrington described Leeds as his "centre of gravity", where he spends around half his time. He said they were seeing food, agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare and professional services firms doing well across the region but said the bank was looking for businesses with potential and a good management team which were doing well in any sector.

"A high proportion of food and agriculture output (nationally) comes from the Eastern region. We are having real success in both food and agriculture. People carry on eating in the recession.

"The Yorkshire region is fantastic for manufacturing and some manufacturers are benefiting from the low pound.

"In healthcare there is an opportunity for the slack to be picked up."

Yorkshire Bank is on course to meet the its two-year 10bn business and mortgage lending pledge, made in autumn 2009, hitting 4.7bn for the 12 months to September 30 with the expectation that slightly more will be lent in the second half of the window of time. The bank is also lending 2bn over two years in Yorkshire as part of the scheme and although it does not publish a breakdown, Mr Norrington set it was on track, despite the shift in credit conditions.

"The supply of money has fundamentally been adjusted after what has happened for the last two or three years."

Mr Norrington joined the bank in November 2005 after 16 years spent at Barclays, leading projects in corporate banking, private banking, wealth and agri-business, as well as working for spells in Leeds and Bradford.

His patch contains 14 financial solutions centres (FSCs), including one which will launch in Lincoln in the new year, creating 21 jobs, as well as a satellite centre in Harrogate. Each has a credit executive based there, meaning 80 to 90 per cent of credit decisions for an FSC are taken there, saying of their approach: "A pound deposited locally is a pound invested locally."

Yorkshire Bank, owned by National Australia Bank, is also doing larger deals, and was part of a club of banks which earlier this year lent engineering and vacuum cleaner company Dyson James Group 270m to expand.

The bank employs 1,900 staff in Yorkshire and Mr Norrington said it had recruited people who had been working for banks bailed out by the taxpayer, although it had not targeted them specifically.

In the spring it launched its Investing for Growth strategy, which allows businesses to re-structure loans to free up cash to invest in future expansion.