Rural fears as post offices downgraded

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RURAL areas will be hardest hit by a “downgrading” of 2,000 post offices, the Government has been warned.

Hundreds of sub post offices are expected to be turned into “Post Office Locals” by 2015, offering limited counter services normally in a shop.

The Government has been piloting the new model and insists people will still be able to send letters and parcels, access benefits and pensions and withdraw cash from bank accounts.

But the Countryside Alliance has warned that the change amounts to a “downgrading of postal services” offered to local communities and will hit remote areas hardest.

Alice Barnard, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said: “The Post Office Local model will create a lower-quality public service and will simply not be financially viable for most sub postmasters.

“Isolated rural communities stand to suffer the most from the closures and loss of postal services. We are concerned that there has been insufficient public scrutiny of the new model and the effect on people’s everyday lives.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills insisted there would be no closure programme and said: “This about making sure that people have access to the services they want and need from their post office, at times they want them, and making running a post office more profitable for hard working sub postmasters.”

In many cases the Post Office Local will operate from its existing building but the sub postmaster will have more flexibility about the way in which the premises are used commercially.