Page last updated at 22:39 GMT, Thursday, 22 October 2009 23:39 UK

Cloud lifted in HBOS heartland

HBOS sign
The takeover led to fears for the town's economy

A year ago a dark cloud hung over Halifax.

The threat of job losses loomed large over the West Yorkshire town after the announcement of the takeover of HBOS, one of its largest employers.

Thousands of redundancies were expected as a result of the acquisition by Lloyds TBS, with fears that the axe would fall on some of the 6,000 posts in Halifax and the nearby village of Copley.

Despite the fears over jobs cuts, 12 months later and Halifax appears to be weathering the storm.

Nowhere is this more evident than through a scheme which fittingly echoes the motto of the original Halifax bank, "a little extra helps".

In the face of proposed job losses, Calderdale Council and town centre managers have remained resilient.

They have begun a project which encourages people to spend £5 a week on goods from their local businesses like grocers and newsagents.

Westgate Arcade
New businesses have been set up in the town's Westgate Arcade

Halifax town centre manager Beth Ward said the "Totally Locally Calderdale" campaign could yield investments of up to £40m per year if the 156,000 adults in the Calderdale region took part.

She said the economy had already been boosted by new businesses which had recently established themselves in the town's Westgate Arcade.

"A year ago people were thinking it was all doom and gloom and whether the takeover would have a serious impact on the town itself, but so far that doesn't seem to have happened.

"Over the last 12 months, almost as soon as a shop has closed we have had interesting parties opening them. So it is good news. At the moment Halifax is not showing the signs of a town in recession."

Lloyds will not be drawn on the total number of job losses in the town as a result of the takeover. The Unite union has placed the national figure since the beginning of the year at 7,000.

In July, the company announced 300 posts would go in West Yorkshire as part of a round of cuts.

But Tracy Harvey, manager at the town's Harvey's department store, said the retail sector appeared to be coping.

Christmas shopping

"It has been hard and there is still a lot of uncertainty," she said.

"But the massive job culls that were talked about in the beginning don't appear to have happened.

"It was a difficult Christmas last year so people are really wanting to make the most of it this year. We've had some people starting their Christmas shopping in August."

Despite a prevailing mood of optimism in the face of tough financial times, there are still some signs that the economic downturn and HBOS takeover has had an impact.

The town's Somerset House had lain derelict for years until a national restaurant chain announced it was planning to move in.

But with the onset of the banking crisis exploded they pulled out of the project.

Local businessman Chris Turczak stepped in and Le Metropolitain restaurant opened in July 2009, when the country was still in the throes of the recession.

'Major heartland'

"There isn't the business and there aren't the people coming into the town," Mr Turczak said.

"I think we will survive through it - I think most people will - but certainly the weak will suffer and go to the wall - that's inevitable."

A Lloyds spokesman would not be drawn on job losses, but said they had "definitely had an impact" on Halifax.

He added that the former HBOS site on the town's Trinity Road was a "major heartland" of the Lloyds Banking Group.

"We are always going to be in Halifax," he said.

The HBOS signs in the town may been replaced with the black horse of Lloyds Banking Group but in the town there appears to be a tentative sense of relief that its economy has not been dealt the severe blow which was feared.

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