Post office cuts due to be announced

VILLAGERS across west Suffolk are bracing themselves ahead of an announcement tomorrow which will seal the fate of their post offices.

Laurence Cawley

VILLAGERS across west Suffolk are bracing themselves ahead of an announcement tomorrow which will seal the fate of their post offices.

Postmasters at 16 branches in west and mid Suffolk have received letters telling them if their business is to close amid Post Office Ltd's root and branch review of its services.

A formal announcement on the decision will be made tomorrow.

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Branches earmarked for closure include 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.

Wattisham Airfield and Gislingham, near Eye, are both listed to be replaced by outreach services.

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St Edmundsbury Borough Council lodged its objections to the proposed closures at Chalkstone, Fornham and Horringer.

Michael Collier, chairman of Fornham Parish Council, said the community had rallied round its post office and demonstrated the strength of feeling about keeping the service open.

He said: “I think there is cautious optimism but nobody would want to go further than that. To a degree we are waiting with bated breath. I think this has really brought the issue home to people and has made us all sit up and think.”

In a letter sent to one sub-postmaster whose branch has been closed, Sue Huggins, the Post Office's network change programme director, thanked staff for their commitment in maintaining services to customers during a “a very difficult period”.

“The local public consultation on the area plan proposals for your area has now finished and, as your field change advisor will have explained, the decision has been taken to close your branch,” the letter said.

“Post Office's decision on the area plan for your area will be announced on Tuesday, 24 June 2008.

“In keeping with our commitment to inform you prior to the decision being made public, please respect the confidentiality of this decision until the public announcement is made.”

A Post Office spokesman said it was important to present the public with a clear picture of the proposals, rather than seeing information seep out.

While postmasters had signed agreements not to reveal confidential business information, they had been free to give their views on the plans during the consultation period, he said.

“Taking the decision to close any branch is always very difficult but the fact remains the network is losing half a million pounds a day and is unsustainable,” he said. “Doing nothing is not an option.”

Last year, 19 post offices in east Suffolk were closed, and a further 13 were replaced by “outreach services”.

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