Shock over post office closures

COMMUNITIES in Suffolk are reeling today after the government announced it would be pushing ahead with plans to hack back the post office network.A total of 2,500 post offices nationwide - a sixth of the entire network - will be shut in the next 18 months.

COMMUNITIES in Suffolk are reeling today after the government announced it would be pushing ahead with plans to hack back the post office network.

A total of 2,500 post offices nationwide - a sixth of the entire network - will be shut in the next 18 months.

If a sixth of post offices closed in the eastern region, 239 of the 1,365 branches would be lost. However, bosses insist no decisions have yet been made, and there are no quotas for numbers to close in any one area.

But campaigners predict the cull would have a devastating impact on many villages where the post office is at the heart of community life.

Eddy Alcock, Suffolk County Council portfolio holder for environment, waste management and economic development, said: “Post offices, especially where linked to a local shop, are part of the fabric of local communities providing access to basic essentials.

“In many cases the local post office provides an important social, community and economic function and this is what we need to work together to protect.”

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The National Pensioners Convention criticised the closures, saying that post offices offered a lifeline for millions of older people.

The group said many pensioners will now have to rely on other people to take them to a post office, which was a “disgrace”.

Sally Reeves, president of the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters (NFSP) and postmistress of the Stowupland Post Office, said postmasters would do everything they could within communities.

She said: “Nobody wants to see their local post office close, least of all the NFSP but that's what has got to be done to keep a viable network that we can go forward with, which will have reasonable access for everyone.

“If we do not do something then postmasters will just turn the key in the door as this position can't be sustained - the losses are running at nearly £4million a week - and then we would have black holes appear where there would be no post office provision.”

A Post Office spokesman said: “Post Office Ltd's task now is to look carefully at the strict criteria set by the Government and plan how best to implement them across the country.”

In announcing the decision, the Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling also unveiled a £1.7bn package, including an annual subsidy of £150m, to prevent further closures and help attract new business.

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