2,000 Direct Line jobs under threat as insurance giant launches cost-cutting drive

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Around 2,000 jobs are under threat at Churchill owner Direct Line Group after the insurance giant revealed plans to ramp up cost-cutting.

Direct Line - the UK's biggest motor insurer - said staff across head office and support functions were expected to be impacted in the latest round of redundancies.

But the group said it hoped to redeploy staff where possible and find opportunities for affected workers with other potential employers.

The job cuts - representing about 14% of its 14,400-strong workforce - come as Direct Line announced aims to more than double its original cost savings target to over £200 million in gross annual savings by 2014, or £130 million a year on a net basis.

Direct Line has already axed 1,200 jobs since last August under the cost-cutting drive.

It has 16 sites across the UK, including offices in central London, Croydon, Bromley, Leeds, Glasgow and Manchester.

But the group is shutting its Teesside call centre over the next week, as previously announced, and it is understood another site is at risk of closure under the latest move to slash costs.

Paul Geddes, chief executive of Direct Line Group, said the firm has "not made these proposed changes lightly".

He added: "As we have done in the past, we will deal fairly and carefully with those impacted, and do all we can to support them through these changes."

Direct Line, which was spun out of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) when it floated on the stock market last year, recently revealed a £94.3 million profits haul for the first three months of 2013 - up 47% on a year earlier thanks to cost savings and unusually low weather-related claims.

But the group, which also owns brands including Green Flag and Privilege, saw gross premiums fall 4.5% during the quarter to about £1 billion as it refused to get drawn into a price war in the fiercely competitive motor insurance market.

Taxpayer-backed RBS floated Direct Line to appease European Union rules on state aid.

RBS still owns 48.5% of the insurer but must sell its entire stake by the end of 2014.