Birmingham Midshires has announced the end of an era with a decision to close all of its branches across the country.

The Wolverhampton- based exbuilding society, which specialises in the buy-to-let market, aims to complete a phased closure of 48 of its 67 branches early next year. The remaining 19 sites will be converted into branches for the firm's parent company Halifax.

Birmingham Midshires, said there would be no redundancies during the programme which will run between January and March.

All of the 470 full and part time staff will be offered an alternative role at the company or within the wider Halifax branch network. In addition it said 30 jobs could be created in the savings and investment department at its Pendeford headquarters.

Nigel Stockton, managing director of Birmingham Midshires, said: "This is the right decision for Birmingham Midshires and its customers.

"The majority of our customers, who do not require a branch service, will be able to operate their accounts by telephone, post or internet. Those customers that want a counter service will have access to a bigger branch network and a wider product range.

"All our colleagues will be offered alternative roles, there will be no compulsory redundancies at all."

But Amicus, the union which represents many of the staff was less impressed.

Gwyn Bates, national officer of Amicus, said: "This is devastating news for staff and represents a further reduction in choice for the consumer.

"We will work with the company to make sure there are no compulsory redundancies."

Birmingham Midshires has roots dating back to 1849 and is the result of an amalgamation of building societies including the Liverpool and Birmingham & Bridgwater.

Mr Stockton said existingdexist ing Birmingham Midshires customers could transfer to their nearest Halifax branch.

"The customers have a choice, they can either go to a Halifax bank, or move to a web, phone or post account with us.

"We are expecting the vast majority of people to stay with us. Three quarters of our 700,000 customers are already direct customers."

Mr Stockton said the decision had not been taken because of economic factors or cost, but was in response to the changing demands of its customers.

He added that it had not been imposed on the company by HBOS.

"This decision has been driven by the way in which the business has gone over the last four to five years. It is a logical conclusion to the movement of our customers to indirect and internet banking.

"Around 98 per cent of the new saving business has come from web, phone and postal accounts."

But the Campaign for Community Banking Services said it was concerned. Director Derek French said: "We are not concerned about consumer choice in terms of branches because there are many branches out there to choose from.

"But we are concerned about consumer choice in terms of reducing the product range and innovation in products that will be on offer."