Save Your Post Office Campaign
POSTMASTERS across East Cambridgeshire are waiting for a crucial Government decision which could make or break their businesses. In three month s time they will learn whether their post offices are to close under a national programme to axe 2,500 across
POSTMASTERS across East Cambridgeshire are waiting for a crucial Government decision which could make or break their businesses.
In three month's time they will learn whether their post offices are to close under a national programme to axe 2,500 across the country.
The doomed post offices have already been named privately to Postwatch - the industry watchdog - and it will spend 11 weeks evaluating the options before they are made public.
Once the names are released on July 8, there will be a seven-week public consultation which could turn round the fortunes of some of the threatened post offices.
The Ely Standard is launching a campaign, endorsed by South East Cambridgeshire MP, Jim Paice, to make sure everyone has their say and that the Government is fully informed of individual community's needs before the final list is agreed.
"I know people often think that public consultations are a sham," said Linda McCord, regional manager for Ely-based East of England Postwatch, "but this is not the case here. In our experience it is a very good system.
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"We have seen post offices removed from the closure list where it can be proved that a regeneration project is underway or that there are a lot of elderly people in an area with poor access to public transport.
"It is not a case of who shouts loudest. The closures are decided on criteria set by the Government."
Under the Government's proposals, if a post office is lost from a town, outreach services - such as a mobile post office or a visiting post office set up in a village hall - could be provided instead.
In Norfolk two post offices in Downham Market have been earmarked for closure but Welney and Southery, along with other surrounding villages, could get outreach services.
Wilburton Postmistress, Geta Panda and her family have spent more than seven years building up their village shop business but fear it will be lost if the postal services axed.
She will lose 60 per cent of her income overnight and is not convinced it can be recovered by offering alternative services.
"If the worst happens we will struggle on for a few months to see what happens but I am sure we would have to close," she said. "It will be a shame because we are the only shop left in the village."
MP, Mr Paice called on the Government last week to rethink its programme of post office closures, criticising it for failing to focus on the "vital social role" they play.
He raised the issue during a House of Commons debate, calling on the Government to encourage the better post offices to succeed.
"The whole proposal is based on a ludicrous set of criteria," he told the Ely Standard. "The Government should be encouraging and enabling post offices to develop and become centres of entrepreneurial excellence.
"Instead the post office centrally is loading all its costs onto the local post offices and then cutting back their transactions. The whole thing is back to front."
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: "We are not saying we can turn it round. This is bad news but we need to find what we can rescue from it.
"We genuinely believe that this isn't the end of the road. Our role is to bring together options and possibilities and ask the local community to decide what is best for them."
And he warned that, with 8,000 post offices nationally losing money, the closure process will happen again.
Next week we will tell readers how they can get involved and print petition forms for readers to sign.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Is the local post office a vital community service or an out-dated institution?
Write to: the Ely Standard, 38 Market Street, Ely, Cambs, CB7 4LS or email: email@example.com