The region’s Labour figurehead made the creation of a locally-owned ‘People’s Bank’ one of the cornerstones of his election campaign earlier this year, promising to reinvest all of its profits back into the North East.
And that pledge moved a step closer to becoming a reality on Tuesday, as the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s leaders agreed to get the ball rolling on the project.
The authority’s cabinet – made up of leading councillors from Newcastle, Northumberland, and North Tyneside, as well as Mr Driscoll – signed off on £35,000 of funding for a due diligence study for the proposed bank.
Mr Driscoll has said that the People’s Bank will have an explicit remit to do business only with people and organisations in the North East.
It will offer current accounts, mortgage lending, and business banking, with physical branches and 24 hour automated services.
The mayor said that the plans would be of “terrific benefit” to the region but that it was very important to “know for certain that the numbers stack up” before pushing ahead.
He added: “We will be keeping money here. At the moment, if someone buys a house then all of their interest payments disappear off into the financial system. This keeps them here, supporting our people.
“There are a lot of businesses here too who want to have a regional bank supporting them.”
The mayor said that he expects to see the results of the feasibility study on his desk this year, before applying for a banking licence – a process that could take another two years.
The cabinet also agreed on Tuesday to pump £618,000 into a new returnships pilot programme – focused on securing new jobs for people who have been forced out of employment to care for children or other family members.
The combined authority will also spend £455,000 on the Newcastle Helix Incubator and Accelerator project, a scheme offering expert advice and funding for digital and science firms.