ALMOST 250 jobs are to be axed with the closure of Royal Bank of Scotland’s Southampton call centre.

The bank says it will quit the site at Brunswick Place in the city centre by the end of this year, with the loss of 243 posts.

The union representing staff there has called the decision “deplorable”.

RBS – which received a £45billion bailout from the government during the 2008 banking crisis – said the lease on its Brunswick Gate site would expire next May and it would leave the property by the end of this December.

The customer contact centre supports customers of RBS, NatWest and Ulster NI on the phone, via webchat and secure messaging.

Rob MacGregor, national officer for the union Unite, said: “The Royal Bank of Scotland decision to close their Southampton contact centre is deplorable. This is a betrayal by the taxpayer-backed bank of its staff.

“The closure of this site will devastate the hundreds of highly trained, skilled and loyal staff, many of which are from the local community. Unite is calling on the bank to reconsider this decision and protect their workforce.

“While the bank claim some jobs will be created in Manchester and Southend, this will serve as little comfort to the Southampton centre employees.

“Unite is pressing RBS to work with local employers to find staff alternative employment. Unite representatives will be at the site over the coming days and weeks to support the workforce.”

A statement from RBS said: “As we become a simpler, smaller, more customer-focussed bank and more of our customers choose to self-serve through our digital services, we have taken the difficult decision to close our contact centre at Brunswick Gate when the lease expires next year.

“We understand how difficult this news will be for staff and are supporting colleagues impacted by this announcement with help for their future career.”

Royston Smith, MP for Southampton Itchen, said: “What is disappointing is that this hasn’t come from RBS first. I’m disappointed they haven’t contacted me in particular as well.

“Any job losses in Southampton are, of course, disappointing and I hope RBS will do everything it can to redeploy affected staff or help with retraining and opportunities for re-employment, which others have done in the past when contracting or closing their business.”

Southampton City Council leader Cllr Chris Hammond said: “It’s sad to see any business leaving Southampton. We need to make sure we are providing support to those employees affected by this and that’s what we will be doing as council.”

Cllr Dan Fitzhenry, leader of the council’s Conservative group, said: “This is a big shock and blow to the city. We want to know more about why RBS have taken this decision and ensure the Labour council are doing everything they can to help our residents affected by this decision. I will contact RBS to see what we can do to help.”

Last year, RBS chairman Sir Howard Davies said it was unlikely the government would ever get back all of the £45bn that was pumped in to keep RBS from collapsing a decade before.

The bank had lost £130bn since it was rescued and incurred restructuring costs of £15bn – and had gone from being the world’s largest bank to the 29th.