Witney News - Post Office closures will hit rural areas hard

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Post Office closures will hit rural areas hard

Residents in rural parts of West Oxfordshire are most likely to be hit hard when the Post Office goes ahead with plans to close local offices in a drive to cut its costs.

This is the warning issued by West Oxfordshire District Council's Cabinet at its 5th December meeting when it considered a report on the Post Office Change Programme.

The programme has been drawn up to close as many as 2,500 service outlets nationally in a move to slash the organisation's losses, which the Post Office claims were running at £4 million a week in 2006. Estimates are that between 35 and 40 Post Office sites across Oxfordshire could close with 50 per cent of the closures in rural areas.

But closures in urban areas will take place too and fears are that the standards of service in remaining outlets can only decline due to greater customer demand.

Already a review of local facilities is taking place and a plan detailing which West Oxfordshire post offices are earmarked for closure will be made public on Tuesday, February 5th. Publication of this draft plan will be followed by a six week consultation period to give local residents, businesses, groups and public service bodies the opportunity to comment on the proposals. These will include some alternative ideas on how services could be provided.

Cllr Jill Dunsmore, Cabinet Member for Communities said: - “We are completely opposed to the closure of any post office unless there is a realistic and wholly viable alternative service in place first.”

“West Oxfordshire District Council’s chief concern is for elderly residents and other vulnerable people in rural locations who will be hardest hit if their local post office closes.

“Government criteria for the programme state that nobody should be left more than three miles from a post office. But with the lack of public transport in rural areas, that is no good at all to anyone who is elderly, disabled or on a low income or who hasn't got a car.

“Closures will also come as a hammer blow to village shops which are already struggling to survive. And closing rural outlets can only have a negative effect on urban post offices with long queues getting longer and the service quality declining as a result.”

West Oxfordshire District Council is working in partnership with Oxfordshire Rural Community Council, other district councils in Oxfordshire and Postwatch to put together an informed response to the Post Office’s draft closure plan.

Following on from the six week public consultation period starting on 5th February, the Post Office will review its proposals over three to four weeks and then publish a plan for Oxfordshire in final form. Any closures will take place after that.

Posted : 10/12/2007 15:51:24

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