Post Office cuts will 'devastate' economy

THE rural economy in west Suffolk would be devastated if plans to axe a number of post offices are pushed through, it was warned last night.

Laurence Cawley

THE rural economy in west Suffolk would be devastated if plans to axe a number of post offices are pushed through, it was warned last night.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council has launched a campaign to save three of the seven branches in the region that have been earmarked for closure - claiming they are a vital both socially and economically.

While the authority accepts Post Office Ltd's justification for closing Cowlinge, Honington, Risby and Whepstead it is still hoping to protect services at Chalkstone, Horringer and Fornham All Saints.

Talks on the future of west Suffolk's Post Offices end next Wednesday and the council has fired off its letter to postal chiefs in a bid to save the branches.

Mark Ereira, chairman of St Edmundsbury's overview and scrutiny committee, said: “We feel very strongly about these particular post offices. I believe they are vital.”

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Mr Ereira, who uses Horringer Post Office for his business post, said the Horringer and Fornham All Saints branches were especially important to the local economy.

Speaking about the Fornham branch, which sees nearly 500 customers pass through its doors each week, he said: “The owner has invested a lot of his own money into his business and the post office is an integral part of it.

“At least seven local businesses use the Fornham All Saints shop to sell their goods. If this post office is closed, the shop may not be viable and these businesses would suffer. Fornham is home to several rural business centres and the post office here plays an economic as well as a social role.”

Describing Horringer Post Office, Mr Ereira said: “The post office is significant to the local economy and serves a number of local businesses so if it were to close the local economy would suffer.”

Horringer sub-postmaster John Dekker said: “Quite a number of businesses use us and the catchment area is large.”

He said villagers had tested the proposed postal arrangements and a trip to the nearest post office would take at least two hours.

Laura Tarling, the Post Office's network development manager for Norfolk and west Suffolk, said: “Taking the decision to close any Post Office branch is always very difficult and we know it will cause concern to many of our customers. We want to ensure that everyone who uses, relies on or has any concern with Post Office services is both fully aware of the proposed changes and able to give views on them.

“Rural parts of the community - where 66.7% of the population live - would be served by a total of 276 branches, of which 216 provide the only access to cash in their communities.

“Urban areas would be served by 60 branches. We believe these proposals offer the best prospect for a sustainable way forward for Post Office services in Norfolk and west Suffolk bearing in mind the minimum access criteria and the other factors to which we have to have regard.”

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