THE battle to save six post offices has been bolstered by the support of Petersfield MP Michael Mates this week – with the parliamentarian demanding a last-gasp overhaul of the scheme. Labelling proposals as "absurd" and "based on distance factors", 73-year-old Mr Mates outlined his concerns for the loss of vital service provision in remote areas. He then lambasted Post Office Ltd for a "lack of transparency" in its handling of the consultation process. In a letter to Paul Nickolls, the network development manager for the Post Office, Mr Mates also questioned the validity of closing profitable branches, before calling for the Post Office to rethink its plans. "I can't comment meaningfully on the proposals for outreach services at East Meon, East Tisted and Froxfield because the Post Office has not published the details of the alternative service to be provided," said Mr Mates. "I believe that the consultation exercise should be re-run in those cases when the outreach proposals have been finalised," he added. "The particular circumstances of Clare Gardens – a busy and successful post office providing a valuable alternative to the overcrowded Crown Post Office in Petersfield – and the branch at Upper Wield,whose closure would cause difficulties because of its remoteness, also require a re-examination by the Post Office," he continued. "The management seems to have decided to fund a rural and suburban network on the basis of the distance between branches rather than the viability of branches. Not only does this lock in a demand for subsidy permanently, but it could result in absurd decisions whereby a viable branch is closed and one that is loss-making is retained. "The lack of transparency in the approach of the Post Office on this point is unhelpful since in some rural communities a small shortfall might well be made up by a parish council. "We all recognise that the some re-organisation of the Post Office was inevitable after the government removed much of their business and with it a major source of income for the Post Office," he said. "Nevertheless, I don't believe that the current proposals take account of the demand for postal services in many areas or the particular needs of local communities. "I am particularly concerned that closure plans of the Post Office are based on distance factors and not on the profitability of individual branches. It is absurd to close successful branches because of arbitrary measures of distance. "I hope, even at this late hour that the Post Office will reconsider some of its plans," he added. Hampshire County Council echoed similar concerns last week, with the body slamming both scheme and consultation process, before heeding the irreversible effect proposals would have on local communities. Members voted unanimously to agree a statement. It read: "This council strongly criticises the Post Office's current proposals for post office closures in Hampshire as symptomatic of a consistent failure to recognise the needs of shire counties; where in rural villages, suburbs and towns the post office is not only an important service in its own right, but often is a crucial factor helping in the retention of a local shop. "This council is also dissatisfied with the lack of detail received during consultation on proposed post office closures in the county and requests that further information be given, and the consultation period be extended, to allow for more informed decisions. This information should include basic information on each affected post office, such as the average weekly number of transactions, evidence of the claimed lack of need, and the attitude of individual postmasters to the proposals. "This council further resolves to develop a strategy to do everything it can prudently do to save post offices in Hampshire, including the investigation of opportunities to provide county council services through post offices in order to help keep as many of them as viable as possible." With East Hampshire District Council due to approve a £70,000 support programme for the region's endangered post office branches – Durford Road in Petersfield, Upper Wield and Passfield, and East Meon, East Tisted and Froxfield, in which the postal services may be replaced by an outreach service – as the Herald went to press, Ken Moon spoke of his dissatisfaction. "We believe the post office's proposals are a disgrace, and we would like to give practical help to those village stores and post offices that are under threat," the district councillor remarked.
MP calls for post offices rethink
Friday 30th November 2007 12:00 am
Subscribe to our email and get updates right in your inbox.