Anger at compensation for post offices
CAMPAIGNERS last night criticised plans by postal bosses to cut aid packages to axed branches if they continue to provide rival services.Post Office chiefs have said they will only pay full compensation to shop owners affected by recent closures if they agree not to offer any competing services for a year.
CAMPAIGNERS last night criticised plans by postal bosses to cut aid packages to axed branches if they continue to provide rival services.
Post Office chiefs have said they will only pay full compensation to shop owners affected by recent closures if they agree not to offer any competing services for a year.
This will mean they will be prevented from selling any lottery tickets, providing private mail, courier or foreign currency services and from offering any bill payment services for utilities, council tax and other charges, through private operators such as PayPoint.
The Post Office, which is shutting 47 branches across east Suffolk and north Essex, last night defended the move saying it would be unfair to use taxpayers' money to compensate shop owners for the loss of a service which they had kept.
But Lady Caroline Cranbrook, who lives in Great Glemham, near Saxmundham, and is a member of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), branded the decision a “disgrace”.
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“It's terrible for these small shops because these extra services provide a reason for people to visit during which they might spend more money,” she said. “Post Offices have been stripped of their most useful functions and now the people behind it are saying that if anyone else provides them they will be punished.
“The CLA has a lot of members who run small businesses in the countryside - many which have to send out parcels - and if a local shop loses its Post Office but can't work with one of the other mail delivery collections I think there could be a real impact.
“They're looking at it as a profit making organisation when it's a public service. It's a disgrace. Once again it will be the most vulnerable people who can't travel elsewhere that are affected.”
Post Office bosses have said that the axed branches will be replaced by 17 outreach services - meeting Government criteria that 99% of the population should live within three miles of a post office and 90% within one mile.
However in an East Anglian Daily Times led campaign thousands of readers felt the plans should be revised because the post office network was the life blood of local communities.
A spokesman for Post Office Ltd said: “Retailers who have in their store a Post Office branch that is closing are free to choose to continue providing services such as foreign exchange and bill payment using alternative providers but it would not be fair to use taxpayers' money to compensate them for the loss of a specific service which they have in fact kept.”
§ MPs are set to vote on the post office closures today.