Post Office network to be slashed
AROUND 2,500 post offices are to be axed under plans approved by the Government, Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling told MPs today.Starting next summer, the closure programme will be carried out of an 18 month period.
By Graham Dines
AROUND 2,500 post offices are to be axed under plans approved by the Government, Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling told MPs today.
Starting next summer, the closure programme will be carried out of an 18 month period.
However, Mr Darling said the Government would continue paying a subsidy of up to £1.7bn. until 2011 to support the Post Office and ensure a national network.
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There are 14,300 post offices throughout the UK, but the number of customers had fallen by four million people over the past two years because people were increasingly choosing to send e-mail or text messages, pay bills by direct debit and have pensions and benefits paid into their bank accounts.
“Inevitably, that has taken its toll on the Post Office,” said Mr Darling. “The Post Office has a vital social and economic role. That is why we will continue to support a national network of post offices - and we are able to back them with the money they need.”
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Only 4,000 post offices were profitable and the Government was preparing new “access criteria” to protect customers from closures in deprived urban areas and remoter rural parts of the country. At least 500 outreach locations would be opened using mobile post offices, village halls, shops and community centres to provide cover to remote areas.
He reassured MPs: “Nationally, 99% of the population will be within three miles of a post office.” The remaining network of around 12,000 offices would be more branches than the entire UK banking network.”
For the Conservatives, Charles Hendry claimed: “It will bring fear and anxiety to people, often the most vulnerable, in every part of the country. It will destroy many good businesses because the Government does not have a long-term vision for the future of the Post Office network.
“If the local post office closes, then the last shop closes as well - and a van calling a couple of hours a week is no replacement.”