EERA set to back rural post offices

THE threat to rural and urban post offices has at last been recognised by the regional assembly covering eastern England, which is expected this week to add its name to the growing list of protesters concerned at the impact on community life if they are closed.

By Graham Dines

THE threat to rural and urban post offices has at last been recognised by the regional assembly covering eastern England, which is expected this week to add its name to the growing list of protesters concerned at the impact on community life if they are closed.

This autumn, the obligation on Royal Mail to protect rural offices from closure comes to an end and the Government is currently reviewing whether to continue its financial support for countryside branches from 2008.

Protection of the urban network has now ended, with Royal Mail no longer committed to keeping branch offices open, even in areas of social deprivation.


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Many sub-offices are closing because the businesses are running at a loss, with most of the 14,000 sub-postmasters earn under £1,000 a month.

Sue Sida-Lockett, the chairman of the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA), said: “Given the challenges being faced across the network, it is essential that a full public consultation take place on the future development of the network and the nature of financial assistance to be made.

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“We are not just concerned with rural closures. There are areas of urban deprivation where people rely on their local post office for benefits and other services and if that facility closes, they will be forced to make long journeys which they really cannot afford to do.

“It's not just about the effect of local residents in both rural areas and our towns across the region. We have major concerns about the impact on small businesses.

“If people are being urged to either work from home or set up neighbourhood business units to cut down on amount of car use, then it is absolutely crucial for them to be within easy reach of a post office.”

Mrs Sida-Lockett said she was amazed MPs had approved in 2002 the closure of up to 3,000 urban post offices across the United Kingdom.

“Post Offices are an essential building block of sustainable communities. The executive committee of EERA will be agreeing this week the steps it needs to take to press Government ministers to extend existing financial support for the Post Office network beyond March 2008, which will allow full evaluation of innovative pilot projects - such as delivering on-line banking through mobile branches - and an effective public consultation on the future of the network.”

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