VILLAGE life in England is in danger of dying out because the local lifeline - the post office and shop - is being killed off by Government inaction, says a damning report issued this week by the charity Age Concern.
The closures of post offices in rural areas like the Yorkshire Dales has been a matter of controversy for years but a survey by Age Concern is the most detailed ever carried out because huge numbers of pensioners living in the countryside are being deprived of the ability to buy basic food supplies without long and arduous bus journeys.
Closures could kill village life
The report suggests that because of a lack of support from the government, 8,000 of the 8,077 rural post offices and village shops are likely to close in coming years. This would force older people to leave their villages and that, in turn, would mean the death of village life as we know it.
The reason for the decline is the decision to stop paying pensions and welfare benefits via post offices by 2010, says the charity. Each payment costs the Government £1, whereas electronic payments direct into bank accounts cost only 1p, so the Treasury wants to save that money.
But it is the post office fees which allow most rural post offices to survive by also working as shops, the survey argues. Even worse the Government is also believed to be scrapping the £150 million a year subsidies it pays to keep such offices and shops open - a benefit it introduced as what some people describe as a "bribe" to rural voters before the last general election but one.
The Royal Mail, which has just introduced swingeing increases in post charges, already loses more than £100,000 million a year. It says it does not expect 8,000 rural offices to close but is waiting to hear what financial assistance will be given in future - if any!