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Rural champion criticises government Post Office plan

[Friday 15 December 2006]

THE Government has shown a disappointing lack of vision in its investment package for the Post Office - that is the damning conclusion from the Campaign to Protect Rural England as ministers announce their desire to close 2, 500 branches.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry clearly has no idea what sustainability means...

Tom Oliver - CPRE

Whilst claiming it is aiming to put the Post Office on a 'sustainable footing' it is consigning up to 2,500 post offices to closure - most of them in the countryside. The CPRE insists this strategy will hit the vulnerable hardest and shows a complacent disregard for the additional road miles the closure programme will provoke.

"The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry clearly has no idea what sustainability means in generating what we very conservatively estimate at 30-40 million more road miles a year once the closures take place," said Tom Oliver, Head of Rural Policy at CPRE.

"CPRE notes that the Government wants '500 innovative outlets' for small, remote communities, including mobile post offices and services in village halls, community centres and pubs. These are better than nothing, but are not a full substitute for village post offices - they do not provide the same economic boost, and they are highly vulnerable to closure.

"This decision shows a serious lack of imagination in failing to encourage more sustainable rural economies,' said Tom Oliver. 'Often rural post offices are also a shop, acting as a valuable outlet for new entrepreneurial activity in the countryside. This is especially true in the case of expanding, healthy local food businesses."

The CPRE is now hoping to work with the National Federation of SubPostmasters and others to ensure the maximum effort is made to save post offices, both rural and urban.

"All interested parties need to work together to minimise damage to this vital and truly sustainable network," concluded Tom Oliver.

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