THE worry with the restructuring of the Co-operative Bank was always that, when the Co-op Group's stake was reduced to a minority, its ethical identity would be diminished.

Unfortunately, the early signs are that this is exactly what is happening.

The solution to its admittedly many problems is depressingly familiar: throw lots of money at senior executives and cut back on front-line staff.

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The Co-op somehow sees it as appropriate to hand chief executive Niall Booker a £140,000 a month allowance, enough to employ half a dozen cashiers for a year, on top of the £1.2 million annual salary he is given for actually doing the job.

Meanwhile, 1000 jobs have been lost at the institution and about 40 branches will close this year.

Those staff members who remain fear for their posts.

Mr Booker yesterday made all the right noises about Co-op Bank's commitment to its ethical roots.

So far it seems that most customers are sticking with the company despite its effective control by a group of hedge funds.

This probably says more about the lack of competition on the high street than it does about the Co-op Bank.

There are few places to turn for customers who want an alternative to the plc model and a commitment to lending only to the ethically sound.

Co-op Bank will be consulting on its ethical policy this spring. It can only be hoped that this sparks a renewed commitment to such values.

The institution must be rescued, but should it really be at any price?