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Branch closures expected at Norwich & Peterborough Building Society

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by Kay Mitchell

Norwich & Peterborough (N&P), which is Britain’s tenth largest society, is to close 10 of its branches, putting more than 50 jobs at risk.

The branch closures represent one fifth of its 54-strong network and the news comes just a day after it emerged that Chelsea and Yorkshire Building Societies were in merger talks.

N&P said it can’t compete with state-owned banks and those where savings have a 100% Government guarantee.

The majority of the branches affected are on the borders N&P’s east of England heartland. The Unthank Road branch is the only casualty in Norfolk, while the Halesworth branch is the only one to close in Suffolk.

All 10 branches will close in March 2010 and the other branches affected are in Ashby, Bedford, Chelmsford, Clacton, Colchester, Immingham, Kettering and Spilsby.

N&P has already axed 36 jobs this year and has cut administration costs by 20%. The mutual has experienced a fall in income this year with further falls expected in 2010.

Matthew Bullock, N&P’s chief executive, described it as the “saddest day” he had had in his 11 years of being chief executive.

He told Money Mail: “I am truly sorry for those customers affected because I think that they like us. I’d like to say sorry to the staff, too. We have to get our costs back to cover the fall in income in the business.

“The banks have not competed for savings for years and suddenly they are offering rates that we cannot. We can’t reprice our mortgages, as we have made commitments to people. This should allow us to get ahead again and ensure the business is healthy going forward,” added Mr Bullock.

Yesterday’s news of merger talks between the Yorkshire and the Chelsea triggered more talk of consolidation within the sector.

The Nationwide took over Portman three years ago and Scotland’s Dunfermline Building Society at the end of March.

Furthermore, Cheshire and Derbyshire building societies have been swallowed up by Nationwide, while Britannia Building Society has merged with Co-operative Financial Services.

In June, West Bromwich Building Society agreed a deal that saw the 160-year-old institution saved from collapse.

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News posted: December 2, 2009

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