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Barclays closures add to toll of vanishing British bank branches

By Anjuli Davies

By Anjuli Davies

LONDON (Reuters) - Barclays <BARC.L> plans to close around 54 branches by the end of the year in an effort to cut costs, further reducing access to banking services for customers in parts of Britain.

The bank, along with other British lenders, is cutting back its network as customers turn to mobile banking. Barclays, which told customers about the planned closures in recent weeks still has around 1,300 branches across the country.

The number of branches operated by the major British banking groups has halved in the last 20 years and following political pressure a new rule was set in 2015 that requires banks to assess the impact on local communities of a branch closure.

Branch closures in Britain are disproportionately affecting lowest-income areas, taking bricks-and-mortar services away from communities where they are needed most, Reuters reported in June last year.

"The number of physical Barclays branches will reduce overall but our branch network and the colleagues who work in them remain a vital part of our offering," a Barclays spokeswoman told Reuters in an email.

The Barclays branch closures should not result in any net job losses, she said, with jobs set to be transferred elsewhere.

The latest round of bank branch closures, which are targeted at reducing costs, have raised concerns among small businesses as well as individuals in Britain.

"At a time of unprecedented uncertainty, the last thing small businesses need is (the) loss of in-person bank branch support," Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman, said.

"When times are tough, there's no replacement for help from a known and trusted bank branch contact."  

RBS <RBS.L> said in March it planned to close about 180 branches in Britain and Ireland and about 1,000 roles were at risk at the state-controlled lender.

And in April, Lloyds Banking Group <LLOY.L> said it planned to close a further 100 branches of its more than 2,000 in the UK resulting in the loss of over 325 jobs.

HSBC <HSBA.L> said in January it planned to close 117 branches this year and cut 380 roles in Britain.

In March, Barclays also decided to close a mortgage center in Cardiff, Wales, with the loss of more than 180 jobs.

(Reporting by Anjuli Davies; additional reporting by Lawrence White; editing by Alexander Smith)