Lloyds Banking Group is cutting 665 jobs and closing 49 branches as it continues to cut costs in an attempt to complete its return to the private sector.
To cushion the blow of further branch closures, the bank – bailed out in 2008 – is launching a fleet of mobile vans intended to visit communities knocked by the disappearance of high street outlets.
But unions said the ongoing cuts to the 75,000-strong workforce risked having an impact on customers. The reductions are part of a three-year cost-cutting programme being implemented by the chief executive, António Horta-Osório, to cut 12,000 jobs and close 400 branches by the end of 2017.
So far, 9,435 job cuts have been announced and 261 branches earmarked for closure. About 45,000 roles had already gone when Lloyds rescued HBOS during the 2008 crisis.
Rob MacGregor, Unite union’s national officer, said: “It is alarming that Lloyds are continuing this programme of job cuts and branch closures. Unite have expressed to the bank that these ongoing cuts hurts our members and inevitably impacts customers.”
Lloyds, which also operates the Halifax and Bank of Scotland brands, has argued that branch closures are necessary as their use has fallen 15% year on year.
The key high street players – Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander – have closed 1,7000 branches in the past five years and more are expected. As a result, 1,500 communities have been left without a bank on their high street.
Lloyds said it would put eight mobile branches on the road between March and April next year. Its Bank of Scotland brand already has eight mobile branches in Scotland.
Other banks also have mobile branches, including Royal Bank of Scotland which said it had been operating in remote parts of Scotland for 70 years through its fleet which employs 80 people. As well as 22 RBS branches on the move, its NatWest arm in England and Wales has 15 mobile branches.
Lloyds said the decision to make cuts was difficult but they were needed because of “changing customer needs”. Compulsory redundancies would be a last resort. It said the number of jobs lost would be 520 as it was creating 145 new positions.
Branches were still important, the bank said. “As part of this, we have also announced today the introduction of a new mobile branch service for Lloyds bank to help ensure there is a continuity of branch banking services available in some of those areas affected by branch closures alongside other ways to access banking locally.”
Philip Hammond, the chancellor, has continued to sell off the government’s holding in Lloyds even though its shares have fallen below the 73.6p average price at which taxpayers bought a 43% stake during the 2008 crisis. Last month the taxpayer shareholding fell below 9%. Hammond is expected to get rid of the remaining holding in the next 12 months.