Lloyds Banking Group has offered to sell the Scottish branches of Cheltenham & Gloucester to appease the European Commission, according to reports.
The group has also offered to sell the Scottish branches of Lloyds TSB or alternatively a stake in its life insurance businesses Scottish Widows or Clerical Medical amid concerns over state aid it has received and its enlarged market share.
The group is currently involved in talks with UK Financial Investments, which holds the Government’s 43 per cent stake in the bank, and the Treasury, but these are believed to be at an early stage.
A Lloyds spokesman said: “We, along with all UK banks in receipt of state aid, are working closely with HM Treasury to demonstrate to the European Commission that Lloyds Banking Group has a strong plan to exit state aid.
“At this stage it is too early to say what the result of this review will be.”
It was also revealed yesterday that up to 300 Halifax counters could be cut as Lloyds Banking Group continues its rationalisation programme that has already seen the loss of around 7,000 jobs.
The review of its agency counters – bank counters operated under licence out of a third-party business such as an estate agent, solicitor or financial advisor – would be a disaster for remote communities, according to the Campaign for Community Banking Services (CCBS).
Director Derek French said: “We will be concerned about it because some of (the counters) will be in vulnerable communities that may have lost other things already, such as post offices and other shops and services.
“We’ve got this kind of declining spiral. If you live in a hamlet, for example, you might need to come to a village or town to do your banking and you will spend money in other shops, too, while you are there. If you have to go elsewhere for your banking you will do your shopping elsewhere. It has a knock-on effect,” Mr French said.
Ged Nichols, general secretary of trade union Accord which represents HBOS employees, said: “Clearly there are some jobs at risk but it won’t be a big concern for Halifax staff themselves because the agency networks are limited and not part of the core business.”
Lloyds said in a statement: “A strategic review of the agency network is currently under way and until this review is concluded, no decisions will be taken regarding the rest of the agency network.
“The network of 3,000 Lloyds TSB, Halifax and Bank of Scotland branches are not involved in this review and continue to operate as normal.”
The review of the agency counters is being carried out as part of the integration of the two companies.
Halifax has already opted to close 26 agency counters in England and Wales, a decision it announced in June.
The Lloyds statement said: “Agents operating the counters impacted by these closures have already been informed and the counter closures will take place in September and October.
“All the businesses which these counters operated from will remain open and trading as usual.
“Our priority is to minimise any impact on customers and all customers potentially affected by these changes have been written to.”