Sunderland and Durham branches of Royal Bank of Scotland to close

The Sunderland branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland will close in August. Image copyright Google Maps.
The Sunderland branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland will close in August. Image copyright Google Maps.

Sunderland and Durham's branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland are to close.

The bank has confirmed the branches in Fawcett Street, the original site of the Elephant Tea Rooms, and the Prince Bishops Shopping Centre in Durham are to shut.

The bank pictured in 1990 from the Echo's archives.

The bank pictured in 1990 from the Echo's archives.

They are among 162 to be earmarked for closure, with 792 jobs to go as a result, with staff to be offered voluntary redundancy.

Some 109 branches will close in late July and August 2018, while a further 53 branches will close in November 2018 - Sunderland's will close to customers on Tuesday, August 21.

In a letter, the bank said of the Sunderland closure plans: "As you will be aware, The Royal Bank of Scotland in England & Wales was due to be divested and launched as a separate ‘challenger bank’, under the brand name, Williams & Glyn.

"Although part of RBS Group, this network operated with a different strategy for customers, with the intention that it would become a completely separate bank.

"As Williams & Glyn is no longer launching as a separate brand, we have reviewed our overall branch network strategy; taking in to consideration that our customers are choosing to do more of their banking on their mobile phone or online, and that we now have two branch networks close to each other: NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland, in England & Wales.

"We have developed technology which means that customers of Royal Bank of Scotland can also now use NatWest branches for their everyday banking, such as withdrawing cash, checking balances or paying in (and vice versa).

"Additionally, personal and business customers will be able to access a range of services at either a Royal Bank of Scotland or NatWest branch, including payments, international services, account detail changes and mandates. In order to support our Royal Bank of Scotland customers with these services and their banking needs, we will dedicate members of staff to nearby NatWest branches to offer assistance.

"The way people bank with us has changed radically over the last few years.

"Since 2014, branch transactions across Royal Bank of Scotland in England & Wales are down 30%. During the same period, there has been a 53% increase in the number of customers using mobile banking and mobile transactions have increased by 74%.

"Since 2012 we have seen the way in which people use Sunderland branch change, with 70% of customers already banking in other ways locally. Transactions at Sunderland have reduced by 49% since 2012 with only 69 customers now visiting the branch on a regular weekly basis.

We provide our customers with more ways to bank than ever before – customers can choose from a range of digital, face-to-face and local banking options. We will also give our customers details about alternative ways to bank with us including our digital banking options, in branch, by post and online."

Georgie Frost, consumer advocate at leading comparison site GoCompare, said: “The decision to close 162 RBS branches is incredibly disappointing for customers and for the almost 800 staff who will lose their jobs.

“It is not just those living in rural communities, the elderly and vulnerable, who will be negatively impacted.

"The fiasco at TSB, which has shut millions out of their online and mobile banking accounts, shows how vulnerable we are should the technology fail, with many forced to make long journeys to get cash out of their nearest branch.

“Indeed, the Unite union has calculated that in almost half of the cases of closures at the majority-taxpayer-owned RBS, customers will be forced to make round trips of at least 25mins to access branch services.

“RBS say that branch transactions have fallen in England and Wales by 30% since 2014 with mobile transactions up almost 75% and mobile banking also on the rise.

“But the reality is there are still too many people who are unable or unwilling to go online, and quite frankly in a fortnight that has seen IT issues at TSB and indeed at RBS itself, there will be many more who now simply do not trust the technology at banks to cope.

“With the disruption at TSB, and now this announcement from RBS, there will be plenty of unhappy customers now looking for a new bank.

“Of course, if it’s important to be with a bank with a branch nearby, the choice may be more limited so check out what features are most important and make sure the account is right for you before you switch.”