Royal Bank of Scotland is to close 162 branches in England and Wales this summer with the loss of nearly 800 jobs.
RBS blamed the job losses on a deal made with the EU last year which meant the Edinburgh-based bank did not have to sell off 300 branches. The EU had demanded the sale, to increase competition, as a condition of the RBS taxpayer bailout in 2009. RBS resurrected the Williams & Glyn name to hold the branches put up for sale – RBS outlets in England and Wales and Natwest branches in Scotland. However, it was unable to find a buyer.
RBS said: “We are no longer launching Williams & Glyn as a ‘challenger bank’, and we now have two branch networks operating in close proximity to each other; NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland, in England & Wales.
“As a result we have had to review our overall branch footprint in England and Wales and we’ve made the difficult decision to close a number of Royal Bank of Scotland branches. Customers of Royal Bank of Scotland in England and Wales will be able to use NatWest branches instead for their everyday banking needs.”
The bank said 792 staff at the 162 branches would be made redundant.
The bailed-out bank, which is still majority-owned by UK taxpayers, said the number of branch transactions in England and Wales had fallen 30% since 2014, while mobile transactions surged 74% over the same period. The number of customers using mobile banking rose by 53%.
The latest closures come after years of shutting branches, which have sparked political outcry and warnings about the end of high street banking.
The Unite union called on RBS to halt its “disastrous plans”. It said its analysis found that in the case of 71 of the 162 branches slated for closure customers will be forced to make return journeys of around 25 miles.
Unite national officer Rob MacGregor said: “The TSB computer systems crash last week has demonstrated without question that the banking system needs its branch network more than it ever has. Unite is calling on the Royal Bank of Scotland management not to abandon their responsibilities to the communities across the country who depend on Williams & Glynn banking facilities.”
RBS had planned to launch Williams & Glyn as a separate “challenger bank” but has decided not to go ahead with this. The business, including its branch network, is being reintegrated into the group.
Last week RBS reported first-quarter profits had more than trebled to £792m.