Postmasters demand Government cash

SUB-postmasters in the region are urging the Government to "put their money where their mouth is" and make a commitment towards ensuring the future of rural post offices.

By Jonathan Barnes

SUB-postmasters in the region are urging the Government to "put their money where their mouth is" and make a commitment towards ensuring the future of rural post offices.

They believe post offices will "die" - leading to the degeneration of villages - if vital subsidies are not renewed for rural branches and are calling for a full-scale review of the post office network.

The National Federation of Sub-Postmasters (NFSP) launch their annual conference today by demanding a Government blueprint for the survival and prosperity of rural and urban post offices.

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Jon Richardson, regional secretary, said: "The Government has to put their money where their mouth is and give us an undertaking they will help rural post offices survive.

"There is a great deal of concern amongst sub-postmasters, particularly in rural areas.

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"They can't survive due to pensions and benefit collections being taken away.

"Expenses are going up and up and staff wages are going up and up and there isn't enough money going in.

"The Government has caused this problem and they ought to have a moral obligation to find a way around it."

Mr Richardson, from Ipswich, said a significant number of the region's rural and urban post offices had been lost in recent years.

He added that, during the General Election, the Government had refused to commit to an ongoing subsidy for rural offices, the consequences of which he believes are catastrophic.

"If the subsidy was taken away, there would be massive closures, there's no doubt it," he said.

"Post offices would die as they wouldn't be anybody to run them. That's the issue we're going into this conference with.

"Village post offices and shops need to stay open to keep the villages alive - closing them would be first step towards the degeneration of the area."

During the NFSP conference, members will call on Alan Johnson, the trade and industry secretary, to launch a full-scale review of the UK's post office network.

NFSP general secretary Colin Baker said: "In Alan Johnson we have a Secretary of State who, as a former postman and general secretary of the Communication Workers' Union, has firsthand knowledge of the post office network.

"We hope that with his experience and a new Government review, the industry will be able to work together to decipher what the network will look like for decades to come.

"Although welcome, the short term funding measures from the Government that have propped up the network are ultimately not the solution."

He added: "We don't just want another talking shop review that is soon forgotten.

"Some fundamental and honest decisions must be made about the long term public service role of the network and how it is to be funded in the 21st Century economic environment."

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said: "The Government remains fully committed to ensuring that communities have access to the services they need, including post office services.

"We welcome the NFSP's contribution to considering how best post offices can meet this challenge."

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