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Suffolk loses quarter of post offices

PUBLISHED: 09:42 10 March 2010 | UPDATED: 09:24 01 August 2010

NEARLY 80 communities in Suffolk have lost their post offices in the past eight years, latest figures have revealed.

Rural campaigners say the loss of local branches has come as a major blow to many villages, with a quarter of Suffolk's post offices having closed in under a decade.

NEARLY 80 communities in Suffolk have lost their post offices in the past eight years, latest figures have revealed.

Rural campaigners say the loss of local branches has come as a major blow to many villages, with a quarter of Suffolk's post offices having closed in under a decade.

Mobile and 'outreach' services introduced to replace axed post offices have not proved as successful, say local communities, due to the lack of personal service that had previously been offered.

Figures reveal that the region has lost more than one in four of its branches, decreasing from 274 in 2002 to 196 in December 2009.

Cliff Horne, chairman of the Suffolk Pensioners' Association, said that the closure of Post Offices was leading to the “erosion of community life”.

He said: “We're very disappointed that the Post Office has gradually eroded its services locally.

“Older people are adverse to change and the Post Office wasn't just a service, it was also a social connection for people in rural areas.

“It's erosion of community life and services. The 'outreach' services that have been offered in pubs don't seem to have worked, perhaps due to the lack of community contact.”

However, Post Office bosses said that the loss of branches in Suffolk was lower than the national average.

A spokeswoman for the Post Office said: “The closures experienced over the seven Suffolk parliamentary constituencies represent a percentage reduction in the number of Post Offices which is lower than the national average for the same period and indeed covers a time when there have been two Government closure programmes designed to respond to the decline in the number of customers using Post Offices.”

In 2007, plans were announced to close at least 30 branches in east Suffolk, further announcements for closures in the west of the region followed a year later.

In total, nearly 50 branches closed in the Government's review of the network in 2008, some of which were replaced by mobile and 'outreach' services.

The mobile services were originally enforced in areas with lower numbers of customers and were set up in village halls or other suitable premises on certain week days.

Tim Yeo, Conservative MP for Suffolk South, said that the closure of Post Offices across the region had come as “a heavy blow to rural communities”. He said: “I think that communities are very severely hurt when a Post Offices closes.

“The closures are especially a heavy blow to rural communities who tend to who really rely on the services offered.''

The spokeswoman for the Post Office later added: “In the recent Network Change closure programme the Government set out access criteria to make the network of Post Offices viable, while still maintaining ease of access to local branches.”

In February 2009, a group of distraught villagers from Nacton, near Ipswich, protested against the area's 'outreach' van. The group descended on George Court car park - the location which the hi-tech mobile service worked from eight hours a week - to blockade the site.

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