(Adds more detail, Unite response)
LONDON, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Britain’s Royal Bank of Scotland said on Wednesday it will close a further 54 branches and axe 258 jobs, in what it called the final cut to its branch network until at least 2020.
British banks have shuttered hundreds of branches and shed thousands of employees in recent years in a bid to streamline their operations and adapt to customers’ increasing preference for digital banking.
Not including Wednesday’s changes, RBS has announced the closure of 421 branches and the removal of 2,372 roles since this time last year, drawing criticism from lawmakers and campaigners.
The latest closures are related to RBS’s failed bid to spin-out its Williams & Glyn brand into a stand-alone bank, it said.
“As we are no longer launching Williams & Glyn as a challenger bank we now have two branch networks operating in close proximity to each other in England and Wales,” an RBS spokesman said in a statement.
He added that the bank will now focus on investing in its remaining network, which RBS said will be stable until at least 2020.
Closures and cuts at taxpayer-owned RBS and its peers have become a hot-button issue, with critics condemning lenders for depriving some areas of vital services.
RBS was forced to put the closure of ten branches in Scotland on hold pending review following political pressure earlier this year.
Unite the union condemned the latest decision, which it said will leave the RBS brand with just 51 sites and heap misery on communities already hit by a demise in local banking services.
“It is utterly disgusting that Royal Bank of Scotland has the audacity to announce that yet more important local bank branches will permanently close their doors,” Unite national officer Rob MacGregor said in a statement.
The cuts will affect branches in England and Wales only. RBS had already ruled out further branch closures in Scotland before 2020. (Reporting by Emma Rumney, editing by Sinead Cruise and Kirsten Donovan)