Jeremy Warner: C&G pays the price for Lloyds banking merger

Outlook So farewell then Cheltenham & Gloucester, whose high street brand dates back to the mid-19th century but, like so much else, is now falling victim to the relentless march of "progress" – in this case the cost-cutting integration of Lloyds TSB with Halifax Bank of Scotland.

All 164 C&G branches are to be closed because of the overlap with HBOS and Lloyds TSB outlets. The brand will live on as a telephone, intermediary and postal service, but that's obviously not the same thing and is in any case small consolation to the 1,600 C&G employees who will lose their jobs.

C&G has been owned by Lloyds Bank since the mid-1990s, when it was acquired as one of the first building society demutualisations. It might therefore be argued that the brand would have disappeared eventually in any case, regardless of the HBOS merger. C&G customers are to be redirected not so much to Halifax branches, but to those of Lloyds TSB, where services are already shared.

All the same, minds have been concentrated by the merger and apart from anything else, it has served to convince the newly named Lloyds Banking Group that it now has too many mortgage brands sheltering under one umbrella. There are at least six of them and possibly more. Even in a bank that still claims to champion a multi-brand strategy, this is bound to look excessive.

Lloyds Banking Group is already closing down HBOS's Clerical Medical Insurance Group because of its overlap with the existing Lloyds insurance brand, Scottish Widows. More brands and operational centres are certain to go too before the "integration" is considered complete.

Brands that were once household names wither and die all the time, and if what Lloyds is doing were just part of that process, I wouldn't be so concerned. But this is different. To justify a takeover that, in most respects, has turned out to be a disaster, Lloyds TSB has to deliver billions of pounds a year in cost cuts.

A fundamentally anti-competitive purpose lies at the heart of the brand cull now taking place. Lloyds is crunching together once competing businesses in the hope of hanging on to their combined market share and then exploiting the resulting dominance to drive up spreads and customer charges.

I hate to heap yet more blame for the sins of the world on Gordon Brown's doorstep, but the now all-too-apparent adverse consequences of the Lloyds/HBOS merger – the disappearance of otherwise viable brands, job losses and all too likely exploitation of the customer base – carry the Prime Minister's official blessing.

Normal competition rules were suspended to allow this monstrously monopolistic merger to take place. Even at the time, this seemed to serve no obvious public good other than saving Mr Brown the political embarrassment of having to nationalise HBOS.

Even that judgement has turned out to be flawed. So dire was the state of HBOS's books that the deal very nearly destroyed Lloyds TSB too. In the end, the Government was forced to bail out both banks. A damaging and unnecessary consolidation has been forced on the British public, which has failed to serve even the sectarian political purpose of enhancing the PM's chances of survival.

Mr Brown allowed the merger because he thought it offered a solution to the banking crisis. This turned out to be largely wrong. Instead, it's resulted only in a conspiracy against the public. The Tories have promised to use the Government's shareholding in Lloyds Banking Group to explore a possible breakup. Whatever they do, it is regrettably going to come too late for C&G.

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

Technical Support Analyst (C++, Windows, Linux, Perl, Graduate)

£30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global leader in trading platforms and e...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice