RBS closures: Bank bosses pocket twice as much as axed branches are worth

RBS branch in Banff has already had to shut.
RBS branch in Banff has already had to shut.

Royal Bank of Scotland paid £16million in bonuses to executives last year – almost twice the amount it will make from selling off branches in many parts of the country.

The bank plans to close 62 outlets across Scotland, including 18 in the north, and point customers to online banking. Most of the branches are owned by the bank but some are leased.

Of the 18 closing in the north, 12 are in areas in the bottom 20% of broadband coverage – including five in the worst 10%. The closures include a branch on Barra in the Outer Hebrides, which will mean customers need to catch a ferry to use the nearest counter service.

And yet, in the last year, RBS paid large bonuses, including £1.2million to Les Matheson, who runs the high street operation.

The bank was bailed out during the financial collapse 10 years ago and remains 72% publicly owned.

According to surveyor Bill McVicar, a “reasonable estimate” of the value of the buildings being sold is £8.7million, although he said this figure could fluctuate.

“Working from the rateable value of each of the 49 branches (to be sold), I’ve calculated an indicative value of £8.7million,” he said.

“Factors such as demand and whether a branch was in a listed building could alter the actual figure achieved.”

Mary Alexander, Unite’s deputy Scottish secretary, claimed the bank was “wreaking havoc”.

She said: “We have looked at the books. In 2016, RBS paid directors and top executives £23.4million in salaries, bonuses and share options.

“Nice work if you can get it. So now, for a sell-off that will bring in less than a third of what those fat cats are taking home every year, they are wreaking havoc across Scotland.

“RBS – the bank for wrecking communities, wrecking local businesses and slaughtering vital jobs. Who are these people? Scotland needs to stand up and say no.”

Christine Jardine, MP for Edinburgh West, argued the UK Government should act in its role as a shareholder.

She added: “The closures will devastate the footfall in high streets across Scotland. The UK Government need to assert their rights as shareholder in RBS to secure a better future for Scotland’s towns.”

RBS last night declined to comment.