Use it or lose it plea

PUBLISHED: 10:23 22 November 2007 | UPDATED: 13:04 04 May 2010

Cllr Bill Hunt (left) pictured earlier this year with Haddenham postmaster Steve Edwards.

Cllr Bill Hunt (left) pictured earlier this year with Haddenham postmaster Steve Edwards.

POSTMASTERS across East Cambridgeshire are being forced to carry on running their businesses fearing that in six months time the Government could slice thousands of pounds from their incomes. Many are worried that if their post offices are earmarked for c

Soham postmaster John Trinder, Jim Paice and Steve Edwards at Westminster at the end of last year.

POSTMASTERS across East Cambridgeshire are being forced to carry on running their businesses fearing that in six months time the Government could slice thousands of pounds from their incomes.

Many are worried that if their post offices are earmarked for closure it could mean the end of their village shops.

Now the Ely Standard has launched a campaign to Save Our

Village Shops urging villagers to "use it or lose it" to make sure that their village shops survive even if the post office counters are lost.

"We are in limbo," said Geta Panda, who runs Wilburton Post Office. "We are trying to be as positive as we can, but at the same time working out what we might do in the worst case scenario."

If Wilburton Post Office is named as one of 2,500 across the country destined to close, Geta and her family will lose 60 per cent of their income overnight.

"We have worked hard for this business for seven years," she added. "But we can't invest in the business because we don't know what is going to happen."

The Government will decide where the axe will fall among the 15 sub post offices in East Cambridgeshire in June and then a public consultation will be launched.

Cllr Bill Hunt, who represents Haddenham on the county council and Wilburton and Stretham on the district council, has urged villagers to support their village shops.

He said: "If they are lost it will tear the heart out of these communities.

"They are key to an area like its pub, garage, school and chapel. For these shops to survive people have got to use them and use them now.

"It is appalling that postmasters and postmistresses should work under this pressure not knowing what the future holds."

Out-of-town shopping and people commuting out of villages for work has left many village shops struggling to survive, while others have already been forced to close.

Now shopkeepers fear that this latest blow from the Government could lead to villages across the district becoming dormitory communities with no facilities.

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 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."

Linda McCord, regional manager for Ely-based Postwatch said: "Closures are not good news for customers.

"However, the current post office network is unsustainable.

"Postwatch accepts the rationale for this change and agrees it is preferable to have planned rather than unplanned closures which is a real threat in the current Post Office Network."

She urged customers to take part in a public consultation after the announcement, considering what the proposals will mean for them and then sending their views to Post Office Ltd.

"Meaningful local engagement is the best way of ensuring an outcome which minimises inconvenience.

"At this stage however, we have no idea which post offices, if any, will be affected in Ely.

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