NW minister calls for regional banks

In his first public appearance as the new North West minister, Phil Woolas today called for greater devolution of power and finance to the region, including formation of regional banks and stock exchange.

Opening the Northwest Conversation conference being held at Manchester Central by 4NW, formerly the North West Regional Assembly, Woolas said: "This region will lead the UK out of the recession as it does not suffer from the over-reliance on the financial sector that you see in the South East."

Woolas, the member of parliament for Oldham and graduate of Manchester University, added: "I would like to see regional banks with executive boards and decision-making based here in the real world rather than answering to global pressures in London.

"I would also like to see a regional stock exchange again…the reasons why they have gone have disappeared with the arrival of new technology."

Woolas said the North West would be the 12th biggest economy in the European Union if it were a country. He said the region's strengths were its import-export trade and the level of education among its workforce. However, London and the South East continue to pull away from the North West, which had only 87% of the UK average GVA economic output in 2007.

4NW is made up of leaders of the local authorities; it lobbies regionally and nationally on policy areas including housing, transport, planning and employment.

The Northwest Conversation is sponsored by the North West Development Agency, Government Office for the North West, Place North West and North West Employers.

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