Anger as axe falls on post offices

FURY erupted last night after it was announced that three more post offices were to be axed in North East Essex.Community leaders branded the closure consultation process "a sham" and said communities would be "poorer".

FURY erupted last night after it was announced that three more post offices were to be axed in North East Essex.

Community leaders branded the closure consultation process "a sham" and said communities would be "poorer".

The Post Office has announced that two branches in Clacton – Southcliff and St Osyth Road – and the Butt Road premises in Colchester will shut at the end of next month. It insists the move is necessary to secure a "viable future" for its network.

More than 660 people signed a petition to keep the Butt Road premises open and earlier this year it was offered a reprieve. Now its last day of business will be January 31.

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Colchester Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell, said: "My view is there is not a community in Colchester that can have its sub post office taken away and not be adversely affected as a consequence. The communities who lose them will be poorer and the whole thing makes a nonsense of the Government's claim that it wants to establish 'sustainable communities'- everything about this is to the disbenefit of the community."

In Colchester, East Hill, Hythe Hill and Bergholt Road sub post offices have already closed. In Clacton, where the two branches shut on January 28, Tendring district councillors were also worried about the impact on their ward members.

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Mark Morley-Souter (Lab) , whose Alton Park ward encompasses the St Osyth Road branch, said: "It's a shame because there are limited number of shops and it means people will have to travel to town or Magdalen Green.

"I am concerned for young families and elderly people, neither of whom can walk very far so it is going to have an impact on the community.

"As to the consultation, it was a classic case of us objecting and them taking no notice. It was really a sham and just something the Post Office goes through."

Conservative Pierre Oxley said residents in the St Paul's ward would feel the loss of the Southcliff branch in Holland Road, although he hoped the post office could still be maintained as a shop.

He said: "It will affect the ward because we have an elderly population but it is inevitable when the Government ceases paying money directly to the post offices. This means the amount of people going there becomes less and less over time.

"I think the Government should be looking at ways of doing all it can to keep our rural and local post offices alive."

The Post Office said the closures had been agreed with sub postmasters who wanted to leave the businesses and followed a six-week consultation. It said the moves were part of a nationwide programme designed to safeguard the future of the urban post office network overall.

George Hooper, head of the south-east area, said: "We have very carefully considered our original proposal on an individual branch basis, whilst also taking into account the needs of the areas as a whole.

"After taking into account the overall branch resources in the area, we have decided that permanent closure of the branches is the correct action to take."

Mr Hooper added that 95 per cent of people in towns and cities lived within a mile of their nearest branch, with the majority within a mile of two or more.

"Of course, no-one likes to see the branch nearest to them shut," he said, "but, even with these closures, customers will still have reasonable access to alternative Post Office services."

The East Anglian Daily Times launched a campaign to safeguard the region's post offices following the move to pay benefits and pensions into bank accounts, rather than at post office counters. It presented a 102,000-signature petition to the Trade and Industry Secretary.

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