540 Speke and Chester bank jobs axed in HBOS cuts

MORE than 500 finance jobs across the region were axed today.

Halifax Bank of Scotland, now part of the Lloyds Banking Group, announced plans to slash 200 jobs at its Speke site on the Estuary Commerce Park and a further 340 in Chester.

Bosses said they would try to avoid compulsory redundancies and use natural wastage, redeployment and fewer contractors to achieve the job losses.

The bombshell follows a review of the bankís motor finance operation, which provides loans to customers buying new vehicles.

In total 910 full time jobs across the group will go.

Speke employs 500 staff.

About 240 will be redeployed from motor finance to personal finance but 200 roles still need to be axed by the end of September.

The Chester shake-up will take place next year.

Staff at both centres were told of the plans in briefings at 11am this morning.

The bank employs several hundred staff at a number of locations in Chester. About 4,000 staff are employed throughout the north west.

An HBOS spokesman said: "Our motor finance business was considered no longer financially viable, even before the recession.

"A decision was taken to close it and move the business to the Lloyds Black Horse operation."

He said existing customers will be switched to the Black Horse brand on exactly the same terms.

"Finance products like this are needed to keep the market going and we will be the largest operator."

The company said it will open consultations with the Unite, Accord and GMB unions about the proposed job cuts.

David Oldfield, managing director of asset finance within Lloyds Banking Group wholesale division, said: "The decision follows a detailed review carried out last year by Bank of Scotland.

"These changes reflect the financial performance of these business areas, the non-core nature of much of the activity."

He added: "We are committed to working through these changes with our colleagues carefully and sensitively and will seek to use natural turnover and redeployment wherever possible."

One worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said rumours of significant job cuts raced through the sites yesterday.

He said: "Staff were told there was going to be an announcement at 11am.

"Anyone who was away from work or off were told to go in and anyone who could not make it was told to provide a phone number to a senior member of management."

He said there were also rumours that office phones would be switched off for three or four hours immediately after the announcement.

The Accord union said it had been in consultations with the company prior to the announcement being made to staff. However, a spokesman said they would not comment until all their members had been informed.