Belfast Telegraph

Lloyds chairman defends branch closure programme

Lloyds Banking Group was forced to defend its branch closure programme to investors who accused management of neglecting customers.

The bank, which received a £20.5 billion taxpayer bail-out during the financial crisis, is halfway through a plan to close 200 branches by 2017.

One shareholder from the floor at the lender's annual meeting in Edinburgh complained the consultation on branch closures was not "worthy of the name".

But Lloyds chairman Norman Blackwell said: "We have to sensibly balance the needs of individuals in a local community with the way other people are doing their banking via screens and the online network."

Mr Blackwell said that at the end of the current closure programme, he still expected Lloyds to have the largest branch network in the UK. The lender currently has 2,100 branches.

The meeting saw 97.7% of investors vote to pass the director's remuneration report, including chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio's full-year pay package, which fell by almost a quarter to £8.8 million in 2015.

In February Lloyds reported that its bottom-line pre-tax profits fell 7% to £1.64 billion in 2015, after taking another £2.1 billion hit for payment protection insurance (PPI) mis-selling.

However, Mr Horta-Osorio is widely seen to have got the bank's balance sheet in order since the financial crisis.