OAPs suffer hardship at post office axe

THOUSANDS of elderly people in west Suffolk face “very real hardship” after the Post Office axed their local branches, a charity has warned.

Laurence Cawley

THOUSANDS of elderly people in west Suffolk face “very real hardship” after the Post Office axed their local branches, a charity warned last night.

The Help the Aged charity said that 82,200 older people across the latest area to suffer major post office cutbacks - west Suffolk and south Norfolk - had seen their nearest branch close.

It warned that as many as 53,400 of those would now have to travel between half a mile and a mile further to find a replacement branch - and claimed not enough consideration had been given to the impact of the closures on the elderly.

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Last month, Post Office Ltd announced it would close branches at Barton Mills, Chalkstone, Combs Ford and Crown Street in Stowmarket, Cowlinge, Exning Road in Newmarket, Fornham All Saints, Great Ashfield, Honington, Horringer, Old Newton, Risby, Wattisfield, and Whepstead.

Branches at Wattisham Airfield and Gislingham, near Eye, will be replaced by outreach services.

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The closures come in the wake of Post Office's decision to shut 33 branches in east Suffolk last year, with a further 16 replaced by outreach services.

Dr Alan Burnett, senior policy officer for Help the Aged, said: “Older people in Norfolk west Suffolk feel very strongly about this issue.

“When you have a mobility problem or difficulty getting around, a journey extended by only half a mile is not a simple matter of a little more exercise - it is almost a complete removal of the service.

“They are contacting us to say they feel ignored by the consultation process. It's beginning to seem as if the Post Office is merely paying lip service to government consultation regulations and not really listening to the valuable local information being given to them.

“With each new closure, the post office has proposed a number of measures including improvements to the remaining branches and extension of out-reach services. It is vital these measures are properly thought through and introduced immediately to prevent the very real hardship these closures will cause older people.”

“If older people are not listened to, and there needs are not taken into account, the consequences for many will be extremely serious.”

Ernie Broom, chairman of the Bury Over-60s Club, said: “Everything is being whittled away it seems.

“I want people to look at things as a service rather than just a money-making machine. Things like post offices should be looked at like the NHS. Post offices are so much part of the community.”

A spokesman for the Post Office said: “The closure of any post office is always very difficult, but Post Office Ltd is always very conscious of the needs of elderly customers and is implementing the Government's decision to close up to 2,500 branches as sensitively as possible, which is why around 20% of initial proposals for closure have been changed on the basis of information received during local planning and consultation."

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