Row erupts over post office closures

COUNTY Tories have come under fire today after it was claimed they have not done enough to prevent post office closures in Suffolk.

COUNTY Tories have come under fire today after it was claimed they have not done enough to prevent post office closures in Suffolk.

Closures of Post Offices in Combs Ford and Stowmarket are among a total of 16 announced last month for West Suffolk and come on the back of the axing of 34 last year in the east and south of the county.

Liberal Democrats have criticised the way in which Suffolk Tories have responded to the closures, claiming they could have done more to prevent them and retain a vital community resource.

Lib Dem leader Kathy Pollard said that in July 2006 her party asked the council to look at ways in which public authorities in Suffolk could support Post Offices.

At a council meeting last month she asked what help the council was planning in the light of the latest round of Post Office closures but said the Conservatives refused to look at measures beyond using grants for retraining redundant postmasters and postmistresses.

Her question followed the promise of an injection of £1.5 million into the Post Office network by Essex County Council.

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She said: “In opposition the Conservatives talked a great deal about supporting the rural economy but when it comes to the crunch they seem reluctant to come up with anything which would make a meaningful difference.

“I also find it a bit rich of the Tories to attack the Labour government for closing Post Offices. Many thousands closed under their watch too.”

Nicky Turner, co-ordinator of Stowmarket's Town Forum said: "The recently announced closures of Combs Ford and Crown Street Post Offices in Stowmarket are a real body blow to the local communities. Pensioners and those without transport will be particularly hard hit.

“We are trying our best to improve Stowmarket as a place in which to live, work and shop, but the government and the county council seem to be conspiring against us.”

Eddy Alcock, responsible for environment and waste management, said the council would not follow Essex's lead by pumping public money in to save post offices.

He said: “We don't believe it is a proper use of council taxpayer's money to prop up non-viable business.

“This is a national issue and something to be dealt with by the nation as a whole and the government.”

Mr Alcock added that the council has a fund for village shops to help them with small projects and improve their viability.

Has the council done enough to support post offices? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail