Government must act to save rural communities from further harm

Community-led solutions to post office closures will take too long

Strasbourg, 15th January 2008 — Community-inspired initiatives to offer an alternative provision of post office services will not be up and running in time to plug the gap left by thousands of closures this year, Conservative MEP Sir Robert Atkins MEP said today.

His warning follows the launch of a Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) campaign to create greater awareness of the financial needs of rural people, which highlights community-based solutions to the provision of financial services.

Conservatives are asking for a meeting with the EU’s Commissioner for Regional Policy, Danuta Hubner, to discuss their concerns.

Sir Robert said:

“The research from the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) on community-led solutions is a welcome contribution, but such initiatives will take a long time to come to fruition in many places.In the meantime 2,500 Post Office branches will be closed by the end of this year - and the UK Government is sitting back allowing the CRC to come forward with its campaign, when instead it should have done everything it could to save neighbourhood post offices. Such post offices are often the lifeblood of their communities.

“The damage does not end with branch closures. Post offices are often housed within grocery or general stores in rural areas and when a branch closes local people are faced with losing the main - possibly the only - shop too. This is a very serious matter. More must be done to help rural communities, not harm them. The Government will have been responsible for the closure of more than one third of the entire Post Office network by the next election. It’s a second class service from a second class Government.”

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