Act now to safeguard post offices - call

Regional chiefs are being urged to act now to develop ways to spare Norfolk's remaining post office network from further cuts amid fears that an end to government subsidy in 2011 could see up to 250 county branches close.

Regional chiefs are being urged to act now to develop ways to spare Norfolk's remaining post office network from further cuts amid fears that an end to government subsidy in 2011 could see up to 250 county branches close.

Norfolk County Council leader Daniel Cox wants the East of England Development Agency (Eeda) to take a lead role in a study looking at how post offices can develop new business to survive after the guarantee to provide a universal service comes to end in three years time.

County Hall was lobbied by Norfolk Rural Community Council chiefs, who fear that when the guarantee ends between half and three quarters of the 325 branches left in the county could be wiped out.

Mr Cox, who this year pledged to provide funds to help businesses losing their post office outlets get expert advice on how to adapt, said it was important to act sooner rather than later.


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“We want to look at how the remaining post offices can add to their businesses and develop new community services,” he said. “We are trying to get Eeda involved as we think it is a piece of work which could have regional and even national significance.”

This year the Post Office closed 50 branches in Norfolk as part of its controversial Network Change programme to shut 2,500 outlets nationwide.

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Most have already shut, while three will remain open until next month, Rosary Road in Norwich, East Runton, and Scole.

While Nordelph, near Downham Market, will be replaced by an outreach service next week.

Meanwhile County Hall said that 10 outlets, which had lost their post office services in the cuts, had taken up the authority's offer to get advice from Business Link East staff on how to boost their businesses.

Mr Cox also revealed that the authority was appealing to the Information Commissioner to force Post Office Ltd to disclose whether the branches earmarked for closure this year were making a profit or loss.

County Hall, which produced a 200-page dossier outlining why the vast majority of branches should remain open, had submitted a freedom of information request to obtain the figures before deciding whether to follow the lead of Essex and try and take on some post office services in buildings such as libraries. But the idea has stalled because the Post Office refused to hand over the information.

Yesterday Post Office bosses were trying to draw a line under this year's closure plans after announcing that it would not close the New Costessey branch, near Norwich.

The branch had been added to the list after a decision to reprieve branches at Beeston, New Buckenham, and Vauxhall Street in Norwich. Bosses also revealed that they had no plans to seek any more closures.

Yet the explanations given struck a hollow note at County Hall which, while pleased at the decision, said the reasons could apply to virtually every branch which was shut.

In a statement Post Office Ltd said it had had a rethink about New Costessey after receiving more than 620 consultation responses and the decision showed the consultation had been a genuine attempt to listen to the community's concerns.

“Concern was expressed about the effect closure would have on the local community and in particular high numbers of elderly and disabled residents in the area. Concerns were raised about access to alternative branches and information was received about local developments in the area including plans for additional housing.”

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