MUSSELBURGH'S MSP has hit out at Virgin Money's plans to close its Musselburgh branch, saying that customers will now have to travel to Edinburgh for face-to-face support.

The company has announced plans to close 31 stores – including the Honest Toun's High Street outlet – with the loss of 112 jobs as it "adapts to changing customer demands".

Bosses said that the move came as more customers switched to online banking during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Colin Beattie MSP, who also represents Midlothian North, said that the nearest branch would be Virgin Money Edinburgh on George Street.

He said: "I am furious to hear of another branch closure in my constituency.

"Virgin Money already closed one branch in Dalkeith, with Musselburgh being promised as the alternative branch for their customers.

"Now customers from both areas will be expected to travel into Edinburgh for face-to-face support.

"Virgin Money have yet again let their customers down and broken a promise to the community – and not least their promise to myself.

"This announcement is completely unfair and disadvantages the most vulnerable customers in our community, especially those who do not do online or telephone banking, and it is important that any alternative solutions proposed by Virgin Money are inclusive to all their customers. Some of our businesses will now be left abandoned by their own bank.

"Our high streets need to provide vital services such as banking and postal services. The continued closure of these services means our high streets will no longer meet the needs of our communities – economically and socially – and fulfil their primary purpose to serve the community. We need an alternative to the current banking system, which fails to support our needs.

"I have reached out to Virgin Money to discuss this matter and ensure customers are still provided a service which meets their needs."

The company said it regularly reviewed the ways customers used its stores, as well as its online, mobile and telephone channels, so that it could adapt its services to meet changing customer demand.

The number of customers using bank branches for day-to-day transactions has been on a downward trajectory across the UK banking industry for a number of years and this has been further accelerated by the pandemic, it said.

The decision to close a store is based on a number of factors, including location, usage, proximity to alternative stores and lease arrangements. Each store was assessed on an individual basis, with "careful consideration" on the impact on the local area, as well as the needs of vulnerable customers and the accessibility of alternative services such as free-to-use ATMs and Post Offices.

Twenty-eight of the 30 customer stores closing are located less than a third of a mile away from the nearest Post Office. Of the other two stores, one is 0.7 miles away from a Post Office and the other is 2.7 miles from the nearest alternative Virgin Money store.

One of the stores closing is a colleague-only store in the Gosforth office which will not reopen following its closure at the start of the pandemic in early 2020.

The nearest Post Office is 404ft away from the branch in Musselburgh, the company said.

The customer stores will close in early 2022.

The Musselburgh branch has seven employees.

It is Virgin Money’s intention to find alternative roles for workers wherever possible, either within other stores locally or elsewhere in the group. However, some will be at risk of redundancy. It is expected that the changes will result in a reduction of about 112 full-time equivalent roles across the group.

Fergus Murphy, group customer experience director at Virgin Money, said: "As our customers change the way they want to bank with us and conduct fewer transactions in-store, we must continue to evolve the role of our stores into places where we showcase our products and bring our digital services to life."

Written notification will be sent to customers and posters will be displayed in each affected store at least 12 weeks before they close, providing details on the alternative ways customers can continue to manage their accounts, including nearest alternative stores, ATMs and Post Office counters.

Virgin Money said it would work with customers to support a smooth transition, particularly where vulnerable customers are concerned. A range of support services will be available prior to store closures, including digital workshops to help customers become more comfortable with digital banking.

Following these changes, Virgin Money will have a network of 131 stores across the UK.