Government warned over post offices
A VILLAGE sub postmaster fears he will be forced to close his business if Government plans to axe further services go ahead.John Stewart is concerned for the future of Ballingdon Post Office in Sudbury, which he said was a lifeline to the community.
A VILLAGE sub postmaster fears he will be forced to close his business if Government plans to axe further services go ahead.
John Stewart is concerned for the future of Ballingdon Post Office in Sudbury, which he said was a lifeline to the community.
Mr Stewart, who runs popular Strawberry Stores alongside his post office, warned if another major service is taken from the post office he will have to close through lack of earnings.
He said when benefits books were axed three years ago, the Government promised the post office card account as an alternative - but that is set to be withdrawn in 2010, potentially ending a vital source of business.
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Mr Stewart said: “Last month 450,000 sub postmasters went to London to the Houses of Parliament with a petition of four million saying they want something done about it.
“When I found out the service was planned to be axed I was worried about the future, but I'm past retirement age so it's not going to effect me as much as the people who have invested their life savings into building a business.
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“I love the job, but its not just about selling someone a postage stamp - we are part of the community, which will be lost.”
Petitioners were told the card account, which is used by millions to access pensions and benefits, would be replaced but so far it has not been decided what with.
Mr Stewart added: “Three years ago I had an annual salary of £23,000 - this dropped to £17,000 with the loss of benefit books.
“I have also lost takings of £2,000 a week from my adjoining corner shop as customers opting for benefits to be paid directly into bank accounts stopped visiting. Of course, this job isn't about money. It is about serving the public.
“But I have to make a living. If they take away the card account, the destruction of post offices will be complete. I cannot see how branches like mine will survive.”
Mr Stewart said it was unfair to force the elderly in the community to travel to get their pension: “Some elderly people have always gone to the same place and don't want to change and why should they?
“When someone's spouse dies and they haven't got a clue how to fill their forms out I would help them - that's part of the service.”
A spokesman for the Department for Trade and Industry, said: “The contract for the account card comes to an end in 2010. Discussions are ongoing between the post office and the Department of Work and Pensions.
“The aim is to ensure that people continue to have a range of choices in how to access their money.
“This is a matter of priority for the Government - they will be announcing a formal strategy shortly.”