PLANS by the Department of Trade and Industry to target almost half a billion pounds over three years to keep rural post offices in business received a warm welcome today - with one cautious proviso.
Some of the £450 million will go to pay salaries for sub-postmasters, more to help the Royal Mail maintain loss-making rural deliveries, and the rest to develop combined services with other village institutions.
Said Douglas Chalmers, NW regional director of the Country Land and Business Association: "We are obviously delighted with any move which helps to protect this vital economic and social rural service.
"It is encouraging that the Government has acknowledged the importance of the post office network to rural communities, already struggling with inadequate facilities.
"I would however stress that we are still concerned over plans to switch payments for benefits and pensions to direct transfers to banks and building societies.
"We constantly remind rural dwellers that they should use their local shops, but removing services which both underpin the sub post office and bring customers to other local enterprises will obviously have a serious effect."