RBS is set to axe 600 jobs and close 32 branches. Reuters

Royal Bank Scotland has unveiled plans to axe 600 jobs in its retail banking division as it plans to shut 32 branches across its NatWest network.

According to trade union Unite, the closures will affect branches in the North, the Midlands, east of England and London, while a number of other branches will adopt different opening hours.

"With job losses across the country and surviving branches on reduced hours, there's no doubt this latest round of cuts will hurt the bank's customers as well as our members," said Unite regional officer Lyn Turner.

"With every branch closure, NatWest is slamming its doors on another community, dangerously undermining the bank's long-term future."

The trade union said up to 217 jobs will go in the north where there would be 18 branch closures, while plus 13 branches will shut in the Midlands and East, with up to 176 jobs going and one branch closure in London and the South East, which will result in well over 200 job losses.

"Where there are job cuts, this is clearly difficult news for staff affected by these changes," said a NatWest spokesman.

"We are doing everything we can to support them, including seeking redeployment opportunities wherever possible and ensuring that compulsory redundancies are kept to a minimum."

NatWest said the changes reflected the ever-changing nature of the banking system and the customers' requirements: "Banking has changed significantly over the last few years and the way our customers want to interact with us is also changing. We review our branch network regularly to make sure the services we provide are appropriate for each local community, based on our customers' usage and other ways to bank in the local area."

The latest wave of job cuts means RBS, which is still 73%-owned by the taxpayer, has cut 1,500 jobs since the turn of the year as it looks to reduce costs after posting an eighth consecutive annual loss.