The entire Cheltenham & Gloucester branch network is to close as part of a fresh wave of job cuts, banking giant Lloyds confirmed today.
Up to 1,660 full-time jobs will be affected by the cuts, which angered union officials and led to dismay among workers.
The group said it was closing its network of 164 C&G branches in November as it focused on building its mortgage and savings direct and intermediary businesses.
The closures will result in the loss of 833 full-time jobs, which will affect up to 928 full-time and part-time workers.
Helen Weir, group executive director, retail, at Lloyds Banking Group, which owns Halifax Bank od Scotland, said: “Cheltenham & Gloucester is a very strong brand.
“The strategic focus for C&G from now on will be to further strengthen its intermediary and direct savings businesses.
“Another major priority for us is to ensure that we manage the closure of the C&G branch network so that it causes as little disruption as possible to our customers.
“We have a number of measures in place to achieve this.
“It is always difficult to make decisions about our business that affect our colleagues.
“We will work through these changes carefully and sensitively and continue to consult closely with our unions throughout the process.”
Downing Street urged the sides to settle their differences.
“It is the Prime Minister’s view that any action to disrupt the smooth running of the underground network would be both disappointing and completely unnecessary,” Gordon Brown’s spokesman said.
“We look to all parties to continue to negotiate.”
Lloyds said it would try to achieve the job cuts through natural turnover, making less use of contractors and redeploying staff wherever possible.
“Where it is necessary for colleagues to leave the company, it will look to achieve this by voluntary severance. Compulsory redundancies will be a last resort,” said a statement.
The group said C&G was writing to its customers to explain the changes, adding: “C&G customers who wish to use a branch can, as now, manage their C&G mortgage and savings accounts at any of the more than 1,800 Lloyds TSB branches.
“For the overwhelming majority of C&G branches, there is an existing Lloyds TSB branch within 400 metres.
“Customers can also manage their accounts and open new mortgage and savings accounts over the phone and by post.
“There will be no change to the terms and conditions of existing C&G savings and mortgage accounts.”
Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of the Unite union, said: “News that Lloyds is to close hundreds of Cheltenham & Gloucester bank branches, resulting in hundreds of job cuts, is nothing short of disgraceful.
“This move by Lloyds bank will rip the heart out of hundreds of local communities up and down the country, as customers will see their valued community bank branch close.
“Hundreds of staff who have worked hard for years to make the C&G brand a success will view this news as a kick in the teeth. UK taxpayers have not poured billions of pounds into this organisation just to see it sack thousands of hard-working people.
“Frontline staff in banks across the country are blameless for the mistakes of management which have brought the important finance industry to the point of collapse. Yet these workers now face an uncertain future as Lloyds abandons C&G’s High Street branches.
“This is truly a dark day for the financial services sector in this country.”
Michael Stephenson, general secretary of the Co-operative Party, said: “The disappearance of the once iconic C&G name from the high street and the loss of jobs is a sad reflection on what has happened to our building societies since the last Conservative government encouraged them to demutualise through the 1986 Building Societies Act.
“Despite some difficulties, mutuals are emerging from the credit crunch in much better shape than the traditional banking sector.”