The biggest offender of them all is that weird mix of private and public sector - the Post Office. First, the PO removes a lot of the services that sub post offices can offer to punters. Then it notices that quite a few of these sub POs are no longer viable, so it announces thousands of closures.
I did have to smile when I got two emails on the same day as the announcement. The first came from the Federation of Small Businesses and was headed 'Business condemns post office carnage'. The second was from Alistair Darling at the DTI and was headed 'Government sets out proposals to preserve Post Office network'.
Terry Caton, who runs a PO in Chesterfield, doesn't know if the outlet is under threat or not. He 'rescued' the place in March as the previous owners wanted out. "It's a very busy store and a valuable service to the area. There's a large complex which houses quite a few elderly people nearby and they need a calling point," he says.
Terry has managed to dramatically increase the store's turnover. "We added extra services like foreign exchange, currency on demand, plus we've got a free ATM going in soon."
It sounds as though it wouldn't make sense for the PO to close this place, so let's hope it will be part of the government's plan to preserve the network.

C-view


Nigel Dowdney,
Norfolk retailer

Time to be counted
I would urge everyone interested in preserving local shops to support the Sustainable Communities Bill, and to ensure that the Barker Review of planning is not supported, by writing to their MPs and local councillors.
At the moment, planners don't have to take into account whether locals or traders want a supermarket moving in. But a major part of the Sustainable Communities Bill (SCB) is that local people will have a voice in planning decisions.
Here in Norwich Tesco is trying to open a store on Unthank Road, even though the local community is very much against it. But Tesco keeps coming back with new applications and the worry is that the council will eventually give up and let it build.
While we should support the SCB, we should all be opposing the Barker Review of planning law, which proposes getting rid of the needs test. At the moment, we can oppose developments by saying "There is only 'x' pounds in the local economy, so there is no justification for another supermarket" - it's about the only defence we have. We need to protect it.
Finding out who your MP is and writing them a letter may seem like a lot of hassle. But if things like the Barker Review go unchallenged, then our lives will become even harder.
If every retailer wrote, it would make a difference. Just look at the Competition Commission review and block on change to Sunday Trading.
l For more on the SCB and how to contact your MP, see p24.

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