Lloyds Banking Group has announced the closure of 44 branches across England and Wales.
Of these, 29 will be Lloyds Bank branches and 15 will be Halifax branches, with more than a third of these being situated in or around cities and large towns.
The branches are due to close between September and November 2021 - the first time the group has closed any branches since January 2020.
It comes after the company’s transactions have fallen 10% per annum in the five years to March 2020, and significantly further in the year since.
Commenting on the news, Lloyds Banking’s retail director Vim Maru said: “We’ll continue to give our customers a choice in how they bank with branches sitting alongside telephone banking, online and mobile banking, our video appointment services, our cashback through local shops programme, our participation in the industry BankHUB cash initiative and 11,500 post offices, at which our customers can bank and access cash.”
Lloyds Banking has said all of the closures have been made in line with the Access to Banking Standard and Financial Conduct Authority guidance. Additionally, and in line with previous branch closures, there are no compulsory redundancies and its unions - Accord and Unite - were consulted.
According to Accord, the expected staff reductions are expected to be just over 60 full-time employees. This is due to its expectation that most grade A, B and C members of staff will be redeployed to other branches.
In a statement on the trade union’s website, it added: “Every branch that closes, however small, has an impact on our members and the bank’s customers. For our members, there’s the possibility of disruption to their working hours, location and work-life balance as well as possible increased commute costs and time spent travelling. And for customers, there is the inconvenience of working out where their nearest post office is and the loss of trusted relationships with Lloyds Banking Group staff formed over many years.
“We fully appreciate that the demand for high street branch banking is reducing, and the pandemic has distorted that demand significantly as customers increasingly moved to phone and app-based banking. However, the scale with which customers return to branches is unknown at this point and we’ll be examining Lloyds Banking Group’s plans to ensure that they’re properly thought through ahd robustly evidenced.”
Unite, meanwhile, described the decision as “baffling”. Its national officer Caren Evans added: “The closure of 44 more bank branches will deny our communities of essential services such as access to cash and experienced highly trained staff. A local ATM is not a suitable alternative to a staffed bank branch.
“In recent times, Lloyds Banking Group has spent significant resource to sell its message of ‘Helping Britain Recover’. Unite seriously question how this decision to walk away from local communities promotes this message at a time when the customers will rely on financial services sector support more than ever.
“Unite does not view the bank branch network as a disposable commodity and the union believes that the branch network has a value far beyond its immediate commerciality. Unite wants to see Lloyds Banking Group invest in the branch network and commit to a meaningful presence in our communities.”