SUNDERLAND Council chiefs are celebrating the opening of a high street bank's new customer contact centre.

The 28,000 sq ft facility has been opened by Lloyds TSB at the Hylton Riverside Business Park, and has already recruited 80 people - another 420 jobs will come on stream over the next six months.

Senior contact centre manager Phil Exley said: "We are delighted to be opening our first contact centre so soon after announcing our plans in May.

"Sunderland City Council's economic development team have provided practical help and advice every step of the way."

Lloyds TSB announced the decision to locate its first call centre in Sunderland earlier this year as part of a strategic move to enhance customer service.

The centres are part of a programme that will provide telephone banking for all Lloyds TSB customers, enabling branch staff to concentrate on face-to-face contact.

Plans for the new centre were announced in May, along with plans for a centre in Newcastle, set to open on November 25.