ROYAL Bank of Scotland is to shut 44 branches across the UK – including 14 classed as “last banks in town” – following a 30 per cent drop in branch transactions since 2010.
The state-backed lender said the so-called last banks are generally only open for a few hours a week, but campaigners said it was letting communities down.
Charlotte Webster, campaign director of Move your Money, said: “RBS has consistently undermined the interests of its customers and wider society since being bailed out in 2008.
“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.”
In 2010, an RBS “customer charter” set out a number of commitments as it sought to become “Britain’s most helpful bank” and, in a 2011 progress report, the lender reiterated its pledge to “stay open for business if we are the last bank in town and consider a range of options to ensure a local banking service is available”.
The group has around 2,000 branches across the UK.
A spokeswoman said: “Banking has changed significantly over the last few years as more customers are banking with us where and when it is convenient for them. As a result, there has been a 30 per cent drop in branch transactions since 2010.
“Many branches classed as ‘last bank in town’ are only open for a few hours a week and only see one or two customers per hour.
“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.”
In Scotland, as well as the closure of its Dundee Perth Road and Paisley central branches, announced in February, RBS is shutting in Bonnybridge, Castletown, Chirnside, East Linton, Greenlaw, Longniddry, Newtown St Boswells and Pathhead.
Castletown will continue to be served by a mobile van, with an additional stop on an existing service, while other sites will be served by a new van fitted with satellite technology.
Trade union Unite accused RBS of “turning its back on local communities” and urged the UK government to intervene.
Rob Macgregor, Unite national officer, 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.”
He added that Chancellor George Osborne should take
action as one of the branches closing is in his constituency of Tatton in Chelford.
The Campaign for Community Banking Services (CCBS) said the RBS is breaking a pledge made in 2010 to safeguard “last bank in town” branches.
Derek French, director of the CCBS, said: “I call upon government to intervene and order the banks to fully consider the branch-sharing alternative before leaving communities without a staffed bank presence.”
Last month Clydesdale Bank, which also owns the Yorkshire Bank brand, announced the
closure of 28 branches.