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Another 48 Lloyds and Halifax bank branches to close

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Lloyds Banking Group is closing a further 48 branches, in a move condemned by a trade union as a “classic example of putting profits before people”.

The group, which announced multibillion-pound profits in July, will shut 41 Lloyds Bank and seven Halifax branches across England and Wales between January and April 2022.

The banking group closed 56 branches in spring, and a further 44 will close for good by November.

The latest closures – which the bank blamed on a continuing decline in customer visits – add up to almost 150 branches being axed in 14 months.

Many of the big banks have been cutting their branch networks, claiming customers are spurning traditional counter service in favour of banking online and via mobile phones. Many have said the Covid pandemic has accelerated this shift to digital banking.

Vim Maru, Lloyds Banking Group’s retail director, said: “Like many other businesses, we have seen people using our branches less frequently in recent years, and this decline is continuing. Our branches remain a fundamental part of how we serve our customers, but we need to ensure the size of our branch network reflects the number of customers wanting to use them.”

However, the Unite union said the announcement was “a complete betrayal of the communities and staff who have long supported this highly profitable business”.

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Sharon Graham, Unite’s general secretary, added: “This sector needs to start taking their corporate social responsibilities seriously and stop neglecting their obligations to their customers and workforce. Banks are leaving people behind in the rush to close bank branches and force consumers to go cashless to boost their mega-profits.”

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Lloyds announced in July that pre-tax profits across the group had soared to £2bn in the three months to the end of June, and that it would be reintroducing dividend payments to shareholders.

It is understood that up to 178 jobs are affected by the latest move, which includes the axing of branches including in affluent areas of London, such as South Kensington and Muswell Hill, and one of the few banks on the Isles of Scilly.

According to the consumer body Which?, banks and building societies have closed or announced the closure of about 4,300 branches since January 2015, averaging about 50 each month. It said Lloyds Banking Group shut 680 sites during this period, excluding the latest announcement.

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Once all the closures are complete, the group will have 738 Lloyds branches, 553 Halifax outlets, and 184 Bank of Scotland branches.

Lloyds said the outlets announced for closure had, over time, had “significantly fewer” customers regularly using them. It added that in terms of the latest closures, all had alternative access to cash within a third of a mile, and that it was piloting a network of “community bankers” who would be available in town centre locations such as libraries or bookshops to support customers with inquiries and services.