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LONDON (Reuters) -Britain's Lloyds Banking Group is closing 44 bank branches across England and Wales this year, as lenders across the industry ramp up cost-cutting.
Banks have stepped up branch closures after many paused restructuring for much of last year to focus on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lloyds confirmed the cuts in a statement and said they were in response to fewer customers using the branches, after union Unite criticised the move.
"Like many businesses on the high street, we must change for a future where branches will be used in a different way, and visited less often," Vim Maru, retail director for Lloyds, said.
The latest round of branch closures from Lloyds comes after the lender last November said it had resumed plans to shutter a further 56 outlets, after it temporarily paused closures during the pandemic.
Union Unite said it had told Lloyds that branches continued to provide an essential service for communities.
"In recent times LBG has spent significant resource to sell its message of 'Helping Britain Recover', Unite national officer Caren Evans said.
"Unite seriously question how this decision to walk away from local communities promotes this message at a time when the customers will rely on the financial services sector support more than ever."
(Reporting by Iain Withers, Editing by Lawrence White)