Post offices are important public service and must remain open
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has spoken out against the closure of West Sussex post offices, saying that they are an “important public service”. He said the proposed closures were “part of a highly regrettable wider trend to downgrade local services in rural areas.”
The MP made his comments in a formal submission to Post Office Ltd in response to their public consultation on the closure of post offices in the Arundel and South Downs constituency.
On 13 November, Post Office Ltd announced that local branches in Washington and Slindon will be axed. This heralded the start of a six-week public consultation that will end on 24 December.
The Government has set new access criteria for post offices, with 95 per cent of the total rural population across the UK to be within 3 miles of their nearest post office outlet.
Over the next two years, 2,500 branches will close across the country. This follows the closure of 4,000 post offices since the Government came to power in 1997 - a quarter of the entire network.
In his response to the consultation, Nick Herbert said:
"Post offices are a focal point of village life, particularly in rural areas. The closure of post offices in Washington and Slindon will further isolate and exclude vulnerable people, especially the elderly and disabled.
"Public transport in the rural South Downs is inevitably limited. The criteria requiring 95 per cent of the population to have access to a post office within three miles sounds reasonable, but for elderly people who do not drive and are relying on infrequent public transport, a post office branch up to three miles away is effectively inaccessible.
"The closure of post offices is part of a highly regrettable wider trend to downgrade local services in rural areas.
"We have already seen this with the threat to our hospitals, the reduction of Police Community Support Officers promised by the Government, and the recent reduction of train services along the Arun Valley line through Ford, Arundel, Amberley and Pulborough.
"We all understand the need to improve the viability of local post offices. But we should also recognise that they are an important service for our community - a public service.
"Instead of closing local branches, the Post Office should be planning for the future, providing the vision for a successful and profitable network that maintains this important public service for local communities."
The MP urged members of the public to respond to the consultation before the deadline on Christmas Eve.
Notes for Editors
1. Nick Herbert's full response to the consultation can be seen at http://www.nickherbert.com/media_centre.php/316/Post%20Office%20consultation:%20Nick%20Herbert.
2. The public consultation for post office closures in Washington and Slindon ends on 24 December 2007.
3. Members of the public wishing to take part in the consultation can write to the National Consultation Team, Post Office Ltd, Freepost Consultation Team (no stamp required) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Details of the closure programme can be found on the Post Office website at www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange.