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'There should be a Post Office at the heart of every community' - Plans to turn service into national bank

PUBLISHED: 16:35 13 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:42 14 June 2019

Post Office logo  Picturre: GREGG BROWN

Post Office logo Picturre: GREGG BROWN

The Labour Party has revealed ambitious plans to save around 100 at-risk Post Offices across East Anglia.

As the classic high street structure continues to crumble and more banks disappear, Post Offices are taking on a greater importance for thousands of people living in the most remote parts of Norfolk and Suffolk.

For these people the Post Office is a lifeline which allows them to carry out tasks like cash withdrawals, cash deposits and cheque deposits.

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In a bid to secure these services Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell has announced a £2.5bn plan to buy thousands of Post Offices across the UK and transform them into the 'Post Bank' - a publicly-owned bank set up by a Labour government.

The move, he says, will help save Britain's high streets by uniting banking, business and community services in one place.

Sandy Martin MP  Picture: NK Photography.co.ukSandy Martin MP Picture: NK Photography.co.uk

In Norfolk, 54 Post Offices have been earmarked for the plans, while a further 44 from Suffolk are also on the list.

Mr McDonnell said: "We all love our local post offices, and this plan will protect them by giving them a vital extra role: providing our communities with face-to-face banking.

"Plus it provides finance to local small businesses - especially cooperatives, companies that don't hurt the environment, and those that do research and development.

"We are going to take finance out of the hands of the big banks and the speculators - and into the hands of our regions and communities."

Over the last 30 years the UK has lost around two-thirds of its bank and building society branches, according to research from consumer watchdog Which?.

Some towns have been hit harder than others.

Bungay, for example, has been left with no banks and no 24-hour cash machine following the departure of Lloyds Banking Group last year.

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It was the fifth and final bank closure to strike the market town in just four years.

The loss could have been the kiss of death for Bungay, if it were not for the town's post office - which now features on Labour's list.

"We are basically the most important shop left here", said Samuel Flynn who works at the branch, "because so many people require so many different services from us.

"We do what the banks did and what you normally get at a post office - we are doing two roles in one.

"A lot of people use us to pay bills, pay money in and out and for all cash withdrawals."

Mr Flynn lives in Bungay and, like thousands of others, was put out when the last bank left town.

"I was quite disappointed to be honest," he said, "I had just signed up with the bank and then they left a few months later.

"There is no other cash machine in the town which drives people insane because they can only get cash unless we are open."

During his time with the Post Office, Mr Flynn has seen its importance grow in the town and believes the domino effect put in motion by its closure would be devastating.

He added: "I think if the post office were to close it would be catastrophic. A lot of people can't get to other places, I can't think of what they would do without us here."

Ipswich MP Sandy Martin is among those backing Labour's plan.

He added: "We need Post Offices to provide all those services which cannot be done online, but also for all those people who are not able to access online services.

"Over-the-counter banking is one of the services which government ministers have claimed could be provided by Post Offices but they have done nothing to make that more possible or even to ensure that those Post Offices still exist.

"There should be a Post Office at the heart of every local community, urban or rural, so that everyone can get the licenses and other government services they need and including over-the-counter banking as a Post Office service will help to ensure that we can retain more of them."

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