Axed post offices may reopen next month

TWENTY Essex post offices closed down earlier this year could be re-opened by the county council as early as next month, it has been revealed.

Elliot Furniss

TWENTY Essex post office outlets closed down earlier this year could be re-opened by the county council as early as next month, it has been revealed.

The Post Office slashed the number of its outlets in February by closing hundreds of branches across the UK, including 30 in Essex.

However Council leader Lord Hanningfield pledged to fund a £500,000 a year project that would see 20 re-opened and has said the first could be back in business in early May.

Lord Hanningfield said he feared some branches would be shut for several months before they could be re-launched, but he added productive meetings with the Post Office had taken place this week and an agreement was close.

He said: “It's slower than I would have liked, we're gradually getting there. I had hoped initially that Post Office Ltd would let us seamlessly take over but what's going to happen is we're going to have to re-open them.

Most Read

“We're currently in the process of sorting out a contract.

“I don't really think in the long term they (the Post office) want post offices - which is totally contrary to what the people want.

“The Post Office wants most of our business to happen online.”

Lord Hanningfield said post offices were “community assets” that offered essential services to rural areas.

He said the new contract would also hopefully allow the council to “seamlessly” take over the running of many of 30 more branches set for closure later in the year.

Speaking in the House of Lords this week, Lord Hanningfield told peers: “In Essex we spend something like £500 million on care for the elderly. A lot of that work is done in a preventative way now.

“Spending a fraction of that, perhaps £500,000, on post offices is socially a very worthwhile thing to do.

“I think there is a real future for local post offices but they will be, and probably should be, part of a local government network of services.”

Although the locations of the 20 branches have yet to be confirmed, a number of them will be in the Colchester and Tendring districts and the first is expected to be the West Clacton branch in Freeland Road.

Many other local authorities have now been in touch with the council to discuss its response to the announcement that the Post Office was shutting down hundreds of branches across the UK.

Phyllis Webb, chairman of the Braintree Pensioners' Action Group, said post office outlets were a vital service for the elderly and less mobile and it was good news that the branches would soon be opening.

She said: “We need all our post offices really - it's a step in the right direction. If they open one, hopefully they will be able to open more and make it easier for the elderly to get their nearest branch.”

A spokesman for Post Office Ltd said: “We are very willing to work with local authorities and other groups who want to fund, and provide premises and staff for additional post office services in their community and are actively pursuing these ideas at the moment.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter