TWO branches of the former Britannia Building Society in Ipswich are to close under plans announced by the Co-operative Bank today to reshape its network.

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The bank, into which the Britannia was merged in 2009, is to close 37 branches in all and roll out a rebranding programme under which all Britannia sites will take on the Co-operative Bank identity.

However, the bank insisted that it was retaining a presence in all the towns affected, with other branches remaining open close by those due to shut, with the average distance to a branch remaining open being around half a mile.

The bank said the closures would lead to a total of 34 job losses, mainly at a managerial level, with the majority of the 188 staff employed at the affected sites being relocated to neighbouring branches.

Among those due to close are the Britannia branches in Felixstowe Road and Dale Hall Lane in Ipswich.

However, Co-operative Bank branch in Princes Street will continue to operate, as will the Britannia branches in Queen Street and Woodbridge Road East in Ipswich.

Besides its strong branch presence, Britannia also has links with the town as a provider of an affinity savings account run in partnership with Ipswich Town FC.

John Hughes, managing director of retail banking at the Co-operative Bank said the group would rebrand all Britannia branches under the Co-operative Bank banner by the end of 2013, marking the end of the society’s history that dates back to 1856.

The Co-op will have just over 300 branches following the closures, but it is poised to buy more than 630 that are being offloaded by Lloyds Banking Group to appease EU rules on state aid.

Its deal with Lloyds is worth up to £750million and will boost its branch network to nearly 1,000, also adding another 4.8m customers to its existing 6.5m customers.

The group has cut around £70m in costs since the Britannia merger in August 2009 and had originally planned a three-year integration to combine the businesses.

However, Mr Hughes said the Co-op had sought to ensure a “staged and measured” integration following the deal.

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