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RBS sparks political row with plans to axe a quarter of its branches

Taxpayer-owned RBS has sparked a political furore after announcing plans to axe a quarter of its bank branches with the loss of 680 jobs, amid growing fears major lenders are abandoning Britain’s high streets.
The Scottish secretary David Mundell said he was seeking an urgent meeting with the Edinburgh-based bank to discuss the impact in Scotland, describing branches in rural areas as "a lifeline for many people".
In total RBS will shutter 259 of its 1,003 branches, with closures affecting communities across the UK. The bank said 62 RBS branches and 197 NatWest branches were affected.
The move sparked anger from politicians and business groups, while union Unite warned the wave of closures could “mark the end of branch network banking”.
UK lenders are closing a record number of branches this year as their customers increasingly choose to bank online.
RBS had already announced 158 branch closures in March with the loss of 500 jobs, while earlier this week Lloyds said it was axing 49 branches. Analysis by The Telegraph has put the total number of bank branch closures planned for this year at 661.
RBS said it would invest in its remaining branches, its online offering and its fleet of mobile banks.
Full list of RBS bank branch closures
A spokesman for the lender said the firm had to respond to changing customer needs, adding that over three years the number of customers visiting branches had fallen 40pc, while mobile transactions had jumped 73pc.
Business lobby group the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said that while all of its members were using online banking, visiting bank branches was “still hugely valued” by small firms.
Mike Cherry, the FSB’s chairman, said: “Bank branches are still vital to local economies up and down the country. Many local business communities will be disappointed to hear they are losing their bank branch today.”
High street banks branch closures
Mr Cherry said access to cash was “a big issue” for trade in thousands of towns and villages, especially in tourist hotspots and rural areas.
Rob MacGregor, national officer at Unite, accused the bank of “decimating” its branch network.
"This announcement will forever change the face of banking in this country resulting in over a thousand staff losing their jobs and hundreds of high streets without any banking facilities," he added.
RBS sparks political row with plans to axe a quarter of its branches

Banks are under pressure as fewer people use their branches
Scotland’s business minister Paul Wheelhouse said the news was “hugely concerning” and would hit “the most vulnerable members of society, for many of whom going into a branch is the only feasible way to conduct banking”.
RBS is still 71pc owned by the taxpayer following its bailout during the financial crisis. The Treasury set out plans in the Budget to begin selling that stake within 18 months, which could lead to the realisation of a ?26.2bn loss for Exchequer.
RBS took a step towards putting the financial crisis behind it yesterday by finally closing the ‘bad bank’ it set up to wind down hundreds of billions of pounds worth of toxic assets.
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