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The Post Office is to draw up local closure plans after the government confirmed 2,500 post offices are to shut by 2009. It will receive input from local authorities, MPs and subpostmasters ahead of consultation with local communities.
Confirming the closures in a statement to the Commons, trade and industry secretary Alistair Darling announced a £1.5bn government investment in the Post Office up to 2011, including an annual subsidy of £150m.
Mr Darling said: “Local people can now play a key part in consultations into the area plans that will be led by the Post Office. We are playing our part and will continue to. This balanced package gives the Post Office network the chance to compete.”
The closures were strongly criticised by shadow trade and industry secretary, Alan Duncan, who added: “Our Post Office network is about to be decimated. This shows a lack of vision. It means that countless villages will lose their only shop and millions of vulnerable people will lose a service they depended upon.”
Other plans confirmed by the government include the setting up of 500 new ‘outreach’ outlets for remote communities including mobile post offices and services in village halls. A replacement for the current Post Office Card Account, (POCA), will also be introduced.
The National Federation of Subpostmasters, (NFSP), said it ‘bitterly regretted’ the planned closures but added the move should be used as a first step in establishing a sustainable post office network.
NFSP general secretary Colin Baker said: “Today’s announcement must be seen as an opportunity to take the first vital steps towards building a post office network that has a future, one that is viable and sustainable. The Government should not be reluctant or embarrassed to invest in the sub post offices. We believe that support for a network which touches the lives of 24 million people every week, including some of the most vulnerable people in society, is a good use of taxpayers’ money.”
Andy Furey, assistant secretary of the Communication Workers Union said: “This is a devastating blow for millions of people across the UK as Post offices are a vital and integral part of society. The closures of 2,500 Post Offices will make life even more difficult for vulnerable people.”
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What can subpostmasters do to keep their Post Offices open?
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So - surprise, surprise; we wait for five months since the first announcement to find out that the consultation period has made absolutely no difference at all. We are five months further down the line and thousands of sub-postmasters have still got no idea what the future holds. This is not just my job - it is my home, my work and my life: Not to mention that of my husband, family, staff and customers.
Shall we just sit here and wait for the sword to fall? Isn't it about time sub-postmasters regained control of their future? We want to know what is going to happen NOW. No more delays; no more waiting to find out if it is you or your neighbour. The Post Office need to move swiftly and put us all out of our misery. That way we might all be able to sleep at night.
Now the decision to close 2500 POs has been confirmed, let us, the Sub-Postmasters, know NOW. We have waited almost 18 months since the first announcement regarding PO Card Accounts meant our business was dying, and we have been unable to make any plans to either save it or sell it - who would buy a Post Office at the moment? If the decision to close 2500 offices has been made, someone knows which ones they are, or how else do PO Ltd know the savings can be achieved?
First pensioners were conned into giving up their pension books, then post office bankcards are introduced, then TV stamps were discontinued, and sale of TV licences was stopped. Now we are being persuaded to obtain these online. Notice has been given that PO bankcards will be withdrawn. We are also being persuaded to pay our car tax online. The local PO is essential in rural areas, which this government has no time for.