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Accessible, Local Post Offices Essential for Sustainable Communities Say Lib Dems

February 1, 2008 4:13 PM

Writing in the Bedford News, Bedford Borough Liberal Democrat Group Leader Cllr Michael Headley has attacked the government's programme of post office closures and the plans to shut 7 local branches in Bedford Borough.

Cllr Headley writes:

'Last May it was announced that 2,500 local post office branches are to close across the country. A six-week consultation period will be launched in July this year for people to respond to proposed closures for this area. However, an error resulted in the branches proposed for closure in Bedford Borough being published briefly on the internet in November last year, suggesting that decisions have already been taken on which local branches will be under threat.

The discussions that I and my fellow councillors have had with residents on this issue have left us in no doubt about just how much people from all parts of the community value their local post offices. Four million people signed a national petition against post office closures when this programme of closures was first announced, but it is local involvement that has truly brought home the strength of feeling about local post offices and the part they play in maintaining the economic and social fabric of communities.

The list of local branches planned for closure reveals that urban, suburban and rural communities are all likely to be affected. While there are different issues affecting these areas, one common result of post office branch closures across all of them will be less sustainable communities. There is a huge social, environmental and economic cost faced by communities if people are forced to travel further and further to access essential services.

Many of the most isolated and vulnerable local people do not have access to cars, or have difficulty in accessing public transport, in order to make longer journeys. Those most affected will probably include the elderly, the disabled and those on low incomes. These are the people most in need of accessible, local post offices, and it is they who will suffer most from branch closures. Meanwhile, local high streets and shopping parades will be hard hit if people are no longer drawn to them by the presence of a post office.

If we want truly sustainable communities we need to see local services, delivered locally, yet the closure of post offices works in direct opposition to this. My colleagues and I on the council will do all we can to support the local post office network.'