Post Offices gather support

SUPPORT has been pledged for Suffolk's network of rural post offices after the Government announced a wave of cuts.

SUPPORT has been pledged for Suffolk's network of rural post offices after the Government announced a wave of cuts.

Suffolk County Council is setting up a special panel to look at the issues surrounding the expected closure of 240 Post Office branches in the East of England.

Around 30 branches could be axed in Suffolk by 2009 and many fear the implications could be grave for isolated communities.

Eddy Alcock, portfolio holder for the environment, waste management and economic development, said: “We understand the impact that Post Office closures will have on rural communities, particularly on those without their own transport, the unemployed, those with disabilities and older people.

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“Post offices, especially where linked to a local shop, are part of the fabric of local communities providing access to basic essentials.

“Local authorities have supported Post Office branches in many different ways and the panel will look at doing this in a more structured and strategic way to increase the impact and ensure value for money.

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“The panel will work together with other stakeholders to examine all the options and hopefully make a positive contribution to protect the services that the Post Office provides for everyone.”

The policy development panel could look at a number of issues, including encouraging diversification into new markets with advice and grant schemes as well as proposals for post offices to be tax and government information centres.

It is also expected to undertake research into all rural services and look for ways to encourage a community to back their local Post Office.

The panel also hopes it can lobby the Treasury into putting pressure on the banks to allow the Post Office to join the LINK cashpoint network.

Trade and Industry secretary Alistair Darling said last week that the cuts had to be made because the extensive network had seen declining customer numbers and losses of £4million a week.

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