Postal axe an 'assault on way of life'

POST office bosses were today accused of carrying out a “further assault on the Suffolk way of life” by axing a massive 16 branches from across the west of the county.

POST office bosses were today accused of carrying out a “further assault on the Suffolk way of life” by axing a massive 16 branches from across the west of the county.

Thousands of residents, many elderly or vulnerable, are now facing an uncertain future after the fresh blow to rural services in the country.

Community leaders and branch bosses joined forces to hit out at the decisions and label the six-week public consultation nothing more than a “fruitless exercise”.

Conceding defeat after protest marches, petitions and floods of letters, West Suffolk MP Richard Spring said: “This is another attack on our rural community which makes those vulnerable people even more isolated.


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“I'm afraid this is the end of the story as I feel the decision was pre-determined. Post offices should be regarded as an social asset to communities but it has become more and more difficult to make a living. This is just a further assault on the Suffolk way of life.”

Post Office Ltd today confirmed 58 branches will be closed in West Suffolk and Norfolk with closures starting in the autumn.

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The devastating blow for campaigners comes after a spirited campaign by villages to save branches at Combs Ford and Crown Street in Stowmarket, Fornham All Saints, Gislingham, Great Ashfield, Old Newton, Wattisfield, Wattisham Airfield, Cowlinge, Barton Mills, Chalkstone, Exning Road in Newmarket, Honington, Horringer, Risby and Whepstead.

The decision by Post Office bosses brings the total losses to 49 across Suffolk - although branches at Gislingham and Wattisham Airfield will be replaced by outreach services.

These fresh cuts follow 33 closures in east Suffolk where 16 were replaced by outreach services.

In Norfolk only 3 of the 53 earmarked by Post Office chiefs have won a stay of execution, ending hopes for the future of branches at Bressingham, Scole and Nuns Bridges at Thetford.

Sub-postmasters and postmistresses were yesterday still coming to terms with the confirmation with many still harbouring hopes of an 11th hour reprieve.

Trevor Whitehouse, who runs the post office in Fornham All Saints with his wife and daughter along with one at Glastonbury Court, Bury St Edmunds, said the decision was the “saddest day” they have experienced since starting the business.

In a family statement, they said: “We are devastated and disappointed. It is especially sad when you consider the business has continued to grow every week.

“We want to thank everyone who fought so hard to try and keep the branch open - they have become friends rather than customers. It is a very sad day for the entire village.”

Pamela Boura, sub-postmistress at Barton Mills Post Office, said: “We have had a long time to get used to it as we knew 18 months ago that our branch didn't fit the criteria.

“But it is still very sad for the community to lose an important village facility which is well used by residents of Barton Mills and surrounding villages who over the years have lost their own post offices. Many people protested for it to remain but ultimately that was unsuccessful.”

In the village of Cowlinge, Pamela Bowers, the sub-postmistress for nearly 30 years, was equally reflective.

She said: “We were very busy when we first started but over the years I have noticed a drop in trade and sadly it just shows how things change.

“I have been here for almost 30 years and it will be very sad for me personally when I close for the final time.”

David Ruffley said he was shocked and angry at the decision to push through all eight proposed closures in his Bury St Edmunds constituency.

Mr Ruffley, who organised a petition against the closures and attracted the biggest response to any of his campaigns, said: “This is a devastating decision for rural Suffolk.

“It is hugely disappointing that we will lose some of the best post offices in Suffolk where the postmasters and postmistresses provide so much more than just postal services.

“It will be a particularly devastating blow for elderly and disabled people and those without transport who rely on their local post office.

“These post office closures will rip the heart out of local communities which need more local services, not fewer. It is yet another attack on rural East Anglia and, indeed, rural England.”

During the six week local public consultation, Post Office Ltd received more than 4,600 responses and attended 28 meetings with customers and their representatives.

Laura Tarling, Post Office Ltd's Network Development Manager for Norfolk and West Suffolk, said: "These are difficult decisions which have not been taken lightly. We have considered very carefully all the comments made during the public consultation.

“We believe that the amended plan announced today offers our customers across Norfolk and West Suffolk, the best prospect for a sustainable network in the future, bearing in mind the Government's minimum access criteria and the other factors the Government has asked us to consider."

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