New post office closure fears
RURAL campaigners have spoken of their fear over the future of the region's post offices amid speculation of a fresh round of closures.The Government is expected to announce this week the level of its financial support for the postal network, which has fallen from more than 20,000 to about 14,500 in past years and is currently losing millions of pounds a week, despite a recent closure programme.
RURAL campaigners have spoken of their fear over the future of the region's post offices amid speculation of a fresh round of closures.
The Government is expected to announce this week the level of its financial support for the postal network, which has fallen from more than 20,000 to about 14,500 in past years and is currently losing millions of pounds a week, despite a recent closure programme.
Last night, news of the announcement met with fear and anger from campaigners, who claim communities will suffer if further closures are made.
Lady Caroline Cranbrook OBE, who lives in Great Glemham and is a longstanding campaigner for rural issues as well as president of the Suffolk branch of the Country Land and Business Association, said rural post offices were a lifeline for many people, and in some cases the only point of human contact.
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“The Government claims it recognises the social role of post offices, but if they recognise it they do not value it,” she said. “The closure will make isolated communities even more deprived.”
“Further closures will be a devastating blow to the rural communities. These post offices are earning their keep and more, and they are absolutely vital.”
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Speculation about the future size of the post office network was fuelled earlier this year with reports that Royal Mail believed it could meet its licence obligations of providing a 'same price' service to deliver mail across the country with as few as 4,000 post offices.
The Government currently spends £150 million every year supporting the 9,400 rural post offices, but Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling is to tell MPs this week how much money the Government is prepared to give the Royal Mail, which will help it plan for the future size of its postal network.
Wil Gibson, chief executive of rural campaign charity Suffolk ACRE, said other options now need to be considered, such as the amalgamation of branches.
“It is inevitable that more post offices will close, which will have a knock on effect on rural communities and so we need to deliver new means of provision,” he said.
“Some of these post offices cannot sustain themselves, and we need to look at other ways of doing things to keep theses services going.
“We believe that agencies such as Defra (the Government's Department of Food and Rural Affairs) should be working with the likes of Suffolk Acre to test out new methods and try and deliver post office services on a different basis, by pulling resources together.
“There is a future for post offices, but we need to work out the best way forward.”
Colin Baker, general secretary of the Federation of Sub Postmasters, added: “Post offices touch 26 million people's lives every year and in my view helping them is a good use of taxpayers' money.
“We want to work for a living and sub postmasters don't want handouts but we believe the network should be supported.”
“I would like to keep all post offices open but we don't know how much the Government can afford to pay.”
A Royal Mail spokesman said: “The only thing that will determine the future size of the post office network is the amount of funding the Government decides to provide.”