Furious MPs have slammed Lloyds for telling customers to use Post Offices for their everyday banking as it unveils another wave of branch closures.
Seven more branch closures have been scheduled by Lloyds for 2019, The Mail on Sunday understands, taking the total this year to 97.
In two cases – Stubbington, in Hampshire, and Spilsby, Lincolnshire – communities will be left without any bank branches in their town at all.
Threat: Seven more branch closures have been scheduled by Lloyds for 2019, taking the total this year to 97
Lloyds said all closing branches ‘have a post office nearby’ which meant customers could ‘still access their banking locally’.
But MPs described its justification as ‘disingenuous’ because Post Offices can only provide a limited range of services to customers of Lloyds and other banks.
For example, customers can deposit and withdraw money at the Post Office, but they are unable to discuss their mortgage, switch savings accounts or make complaints.
Meanwhile, the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters has warned that 2,500 of Britain’s 11,500 Post Offices – more than one in five – could shut this year due to financial pressures.
Nicky Morgan, chairwoman of the influential Treasury Committee of MPs, said: ‘Post Office staff are typically not banking specialists.
As such, the service provided can only be comparable to that at an ATM. The Post Office should be viewed as complementary to, rather than a replacement of, bank branches.’
She said banks should be forced to create ‘fully functioning banking hubs’ in Post Offices.
Caroline Dinenage, MP for Stubbington and Gosport, warned that some pensioners are ‘totally dependent’ on fully functioning branches.
‘People cannot speak to a Lloyds member of staff if they are having problems with their account, such as a lost card or wanting to change their address,’ she said.
Douglas Ross, MP for Moray in Scotland, said sending customers to the Post Office was a ‘cop-out’.
He said residents in Lossiemouth in his constituency were diverted to the Post Office when Lloyds closed the last branch in town but the Post Office was now for sale.
‘Suggesting all of their customers can get all of their services at a Post Office is disingenuous and wrong,’ he said.
‘Post Offices can play a role but they are not a substitute for a bank branch.’ Most high street banks have been reducing their branch networks to cut costs and boost profits.
In 2012, however, Lloyds pledged no closures for three years but in 2015 its closure programme was relaunched.
One reason was to invest more in its digital services, which have soared in popularity as families and younger customers turn to internet and mobile phone banking.
Lloyds made record profits of £5.96 billion in 2018, up from £5.28 billion the year before. Its share price has risen from 51p in January to 58p.
Gary Greenwood, banking analyst at Shore Capital, said: ‘The reality is banks would probably like to close branches faster than they are, but for political reasons it’s very difficult for them to do that.’
Lloyds said it will only close the last branch in town if there is a local Post Office or a cash machine there. It has also started sending Lloyds vans, or ‘mobile branches’, to rural areas.
A spokesman said: ‘We are committed to continuing to run the UK’s largest branch network and, reflecting that the way customers choose to bank with us is changing, we believe providing a range of banking options is the best way to support our customers.’