Page last updated at 03:48 GMT, Friday, 24 April 2009 04:48 UK

Essex councillors set up own bank

Bank notes
The bank would be the first run by a council for more than 30 years

Essex County Council is setting up a bank to help firms struggling to get finance during the recession.

The council is setting aside £50m for loans of up to £100,000 for small and medium-sized businesses which have been trading for at least a year.

The bank is being created under powers which councils have to promote the economic well-being of their area.

"Bank of Essex" could be set up within a year after going through all the necessary legal and regulatory work.

Banking giant

BBC News local government correspondent John Andrew says the council sees the move as a shift away from a remote centralised system of banking to one more responsive to local needs.

The initiative will work in partnership with banking giant Santander, making it the first council-run bank for more than 30 years.

The Birmingham Municipal Bank, established during World War I, survived until 1976.

The council already has an award-winning £1.5m scheme which has seen closed post offices reopen in the county.

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