Worst fears confirmed for post offices

POST Office bosses this morning confirmed the worst fears of campaigners fighting to keep Suffolk's threatened rural branches open.

Will Clarke

POST Office bosses this morning confirmed the worst fears of campaigners fighting to keep Suffolk's threatened rural branches open.

They announced that all 16 earmarked for closure earlier this year would shut - leaving many fearing for the future of their fragile communities and one MP claiming the moves would “rip the heart” out of rural communities.

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.

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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.

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Richard Spring, MP for West Suffolk, said: “There's no logic in this at all - no matter how well used, how profitable they are or how keen the sub post-masters are to maintain their business, they are being closed down.

“The consultation has been an utter farce and it is perfectly plain they (Post Office bosses) were not interested in listening at all. It is an absolute disgrace and I am absolutely horrified.”

David Ruffley, MP for Bury St Edmunds, said: “Campaigners have worked really hard to challenge Post Office Ltd on their closure proposals and have put together excellent cases against these closures. I share my constituents' shock and anger that the arguments they put forward appear to have been ignored.

“I know how strongly my constituents feel about their local post office from the response to the petition I launched last autumn in support of local post offices. It attracted 7,000 signatures - the biggest response I have ever received for a campaign.

“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.

“I will be studying the decision document very closely to see if any of these decisions can be challenged.”

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.”

The closures announced today will begin this August.

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