Jim Paice MP calls for rethink on post office closures

PUBLISHED: 12:08 27 March 2008 | UPDATED: 10:20 04 May 2010

MP Jim Paice has called on the Government to rethink its programme of post office closures. The call came during a debate in the House of Commons when Mr Paice, who represents South East Cambridgeshire, criticised the Government for failing to focus on th

MP Jim Paice has called on the Government to rethink its programme of post office closures.

The call came during a debate in the House of Commons when Mr Paice, who represents South East Cambridgeshire, criticised the Government for failing to focus on the "vital social role" played by post offices.

He told MPs: "If the Government really cares about the post office network, and does not take just a purely mechanistic view of it, the first thing that they must do is get a grip of what the Post Office is doing.

"We ought to help and encourage the better post offices to succeed, and the consultation appears to ignore that approach.

"The entrepreneurial sub-postmaster should be able to look for his own business. He may want some help from the Post Office nationally, if that can be done, but he should be set free to find other forms of business, perhaps in conjunction with local authorities, that could be related to the post office activity and help to make his business more viable."

It is not yet known how many post offices in Cambridgeshire may face closure but across the national network 2,500 are being axed.

Mr Paice said after the debate: "Simply judging post offices on purely commercial terms misses a fundamental point about their social importance to local communities.

"People across Cambridgeshire rely on their local post office for a range of services and those with mobility problems or in remote areas would find it difficult to access alternatives.

"Rather than being hell bent on closing thousands of branches, the Government should look for solutions, such as lifting the constraints currently imposed on sub-postmasters who want to develop their businesses."

Littleport-based Cambridgeshire Acre has set up a Network Change Group recruiting members from councils, rural shops and business people to advise the Post Office on closures.

Secretary Bob Stone said recently: "We are going to try to influence the decision. We are working to do a damage limitation exercise.

"The elderly, infirm and handicapped will be the most affected and we are trying to put in place a plan where we can share knowledge and identify the areas which are most at risk."

But Steve Edwards, Haddenham postmaster and secretary of the Cambridgeshire Federation of Subpostmasters, believed that, despite the consultation, 99.9 per cent will close.

"I agree that some post offices need to close to make others stronger," he said. "The Government wants to take out those not making a profit to make others viable.

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