Glimmer of hope for axed post offices

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save their local post offices have used new rules to claim at least £150,000 in legal aid for a Judicial Review to force a U turn.

John Howard

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save their local post offices have used new rules to claim at least £150,000 in legal aid for a Judicial Review to force a U turn.

Post Office Ltd will be asked to confirm within seven days that they will not implement their decision to shut the branches - otherwise residents say they will have no option but to seek an injunction to prevent them closing.

The move could give hope to hundreds of residents who face losing their vital service.

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At Stowmarket families were devastated by news that they would lose two post offices after a campaign to save them. Old Newton villagers were also shell-shocked at losing one of their few remaining facilities.

Now campaigner Rosie Carter, who was among those leading the battle to save the service in Stowmarket for families and pensioners, has met with a barrister in London.

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She has discovered that new rules which only came into force a few months ago allow communities to claim legal aid.

Mrs Carter said yesterday: “There is a new ruling that communities can now apply for legal aid to get a Judicial Review together. This ruling is only two or three months old.

“Judicial Reviews cost at least £150,000 and we have put in a joint one for Old Newton and Crown Street, and are looking into Combs Ford too.

“We are today asking the Post Office to reconsider. If they do not reply in seven days we will seek an injunction which will prevent them from implementing there decision.

“It will stop the closures for the moment while the courts look at our application for a review, which is a hearing in London later this month.

“Our major hope is for our post offices, but this may also provide a glimmer of hope in all those communities going through Post Office closures, and those who have lost them.”

Campaigners say the Post Office has not done enough for the disabled, with vulnerable people left walking too far to access the services that are left.

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Stowmarket, welcomed the decision by lawyers acting on behalf of local campaigners to go ahead with a Judicial Review of the decision by Post Office Ltd to close Crown Street Post Office and the Old Newton branch.

Mr Ruffley said: “This is excellent news for Stowmarket and Old Newton. It confirms my view that the decision to close these branches was based on inaccurate information and totally ignored the excellent cases mounted against the closures by local campaigners which highlighted errors in the Post Office data.

“The whole post office consultation exercise was a sham and it is clear that Post Office Ltd paid scant regard to the views of the local communities before confirming the closures. I am delighted that these decisions will now be tested in court.”

In a statement a spokesman for the Post Office Ltd said: “We are implementing Government policy as sensitively as possible.

“These are difficult decisions which have not been taken lightly. We considered very carefully all the comments made, and factors raised during public consultations, before announcing our final decision.”

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