The council's plans, which are also being investigated by up to 50 other local authorities, would see it offer up to £18,000 a year to subsidise each branch for the next three years. It would also offer council services from the 'council post offices' and has not ruled out relocating branches to other public buildings such as schools and libraries if they needed to be made more financially viable.
The Post Office has indicated it is willing to discuss the plans with Essex and other local authorities, but NFSP general secretary George Thomson said the funding and proposed takeover had come too late. He told Convenience Store: "The way to keep post offices open is for councils to provide them with services which they can offer customers in the first place.
"I do have sympathy for what Essex County Council is trying to do, but it has all come a bit too late. The question that has to be asked is where has Essex County Council and other local authorities been over the past few years when the network needed support? I would have liked councillors to have been involved in offering the additional services a long time ago."
Industry watchdog Postwatch cautiously welcomed the plans, but questioned the sustainability of the scheme.
A Conservative-backed Commons motion calling for suspension of the closure programme was due to be debated in parliament this week. Shadow secretary for business and enterprise Alan Duncan called the programme "a horribly botched exercise", and MPs said they would highlight the impact of the closures on the elderly and disabled.