RBS Faces Backlash Over New Branch Closures
A union and campaigners have slammed a decision by taxpayer-backed Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to close 44 branches, including twelve classed as 'last banks in town'.
The Group, which is 81% owned by the Government, cited a 30% fall in branch transactions since 2010 for its decision and said its new tie-up with the Post Office would fill voids left by the closures.
The affected branches - mainly NatWest operations - would be shut down by June, RBS said, though it remained unclear if the closures would result in any job losses.
A spokesman added: "Banking has changed significantly over the last few years as more and more of our customers are banking with us where and when it is convenient for them.
"We have to adapt to what our customers want, which is why we're investing in a range of other ways our customers can bank with us, including online and telephone banking, our mobile app, and in any one of the Post Office's 11,500 branches across the UK."
The announcement followed the release - on April 1 - of statistics by the bank which suggested one-in-five of its customer only used mobile services for their banking needs.
The Group, which has suffered a number of embarrassing IT glitches which left customers struggling to access funds, has more recently endured pay day outages on some of its mobile banking services because of high customer volumes.
RBS has insisted the problems are being addressed as part of its renewed investment in IT, which aims to deliver a more modern and robust service.
It said the so-called 'last banks in town' that are closing are generally only open for a few hours a week and often see one or two customers an hour.
But campaign group Move Your Money accused RBS of letting customers down since its bailout.
Its campaign director Charlotte Webster said: "It's no surprise then to see the bank let down its customers once again by upping sticks and leaving town - even where it's promised not to do so.
"Banks of this scale just can't be trusted to take its customers' needs into account, even when the only reason it's still around is because of our support."
The branch closures were announced two months after RBS said it planned to slash costs by more than £5bn over the next three to four years after a 2013 annual loss of £8.2bn.
It has around 2,000 branches across the UK, although it is spinning 314 of those off into its Williams & Glyn brand to meet European Union rules on state aid.
The union Unite accused RBS of mounting a "stealth attack" on branches.
National officer Rob Macgregor said: "Taxpayers have a right to be angry that RBS has quietly embarked on a major programme of branch closures.
"While RBS senior executives get millions of pounds in payouts, there are communities up and down the country being denied access to a local bank.
"There has been no proper consultation with customers in advance of the announced closures and there is a real fear that these closures will hurt the communities affected."