Virgin Money closures spark ‘serious concerns’ as UK bank branches dwindle

30 September 2021, 11:24

Lloyds Banking Group
Lloyds Banking Group profits. Picture: PA

HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, TSB and the Co-operative Bank are among others to shut branches since the start of the pandemic.

Virgin Money’s latest tranche of branch closures has sparked “serious concerns” over the impact on communities and vulnerable customers after swathes have been shut across the sector.

The move to axe nearly a fifth of Virgin Money’s branch network comes as rival HSBC also calls time on the last of 82 branches earmarked for closure under a programme that has been running since April.

Many lenders paused branch closures in the early stages of the pandemic, but have resumed cuts in earnest.

Lloyds Banking Group, Sabadell-owned TSB and the Co-operative Bank have all shut branches since the start of the pandemic.

Just three months ago, Lloyds announced another 44 would go across its Lloyds and Halifax brands in what was dubbed by unions at the time as a “bitter blow” to staff and customers.

Unite raised concerns over the Virgin Money announcement and the vulnerable bank customers the branches serve.

Debbie Hutchings, Unite industrial officer, said: “Unite has serious concerns about the implications this branch closure decision has on staff and also the communities they currently serve.

“The union is worried that there are approximately 24,000 customers based across these branches that are classed as vulnerable, all of whom will need to be directly contacted by the branch colleagues.

Co-operative Bank sign
The Co-operative bank has also shut branches (Yui Mok/PA)

“This is a massive undertaking on an already pressurised network.”

It also comes as MPs on the Treasury Select Committee last month revealed the raft of bank closures in recent years have left more than 200 “last in town” branches across the UK.

These branches provide vital services to many vulnerable customers who need branches to be able to access their money, according to the committee.

It is worried that if these “last in town” sites shut, access to cash and banking services will be out of reach for many communities.

But lenders argue that far fewer people use bank branches today than they did in the past.

In a letter to the committee, Barclays said that 50 years ago nearly 90% of all transactions were in branch, but today that figure is less than 10%.

By Press Association