Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Mass closure of post offices confirmed

Over 90 branches to be axed here in major restructuring

The axing of more than 90 post offices across Northern Ireland was confirmed today as part of the major UK-wide restructuring of the company.

Thirty-eight post office branches are to close with the first cuts due next month.

The company had proposed shutting down almost 100 branches in plans published in April.

Forty-two had been earmarked to be completely shutdown while 54 would operate through "a form of outreach service".

The proposals were part of plans to close 2,500 UK branches in 2008.

Post Office Ltd had received thousands of responses from concerned customers and attended almost 100 meetings during a six-week consultation period across the province.

Despite campaigns and lobbying by customers and politicians, only four branches originally proposed for closure have been saved following the consultation.

Post Office Ltd announced today that 91 branches will be affected, with 38 post offices closing instead of 42, while 53 would be transformed into an outreach service. The four branches saved are Parkhall Post Office, Antrim, Strathroy Post Office, Omagh, The Throne Post Office, Newtownabbey and Attical Post Office Newry.

Meanwhile, an option to replace Groomsport Post Office, in North Down, which was earmarked for closure, with an outreach service is now being considered.

Post Office Ltd has also said it is offering increased opening hours at a number of outreach services in response to feedback received during the consultation.

However, Michael Hughes from the Rural Network Community, said the length of the consultation period was not long enough.

"There seems to be some sort of listening. But it will be of little comfort to the vast number of people who will now be relying on outreach services in rural areas," he said.

"The six weeks was just not long enough, we consistently said that. We were aware that some of them were never going to be saved.

"To try and get round 54 communities plus then the communities where the branches were closing in six weeks was an unrealistic challenge.

"To make sure that every one of the communities was given the same treatment it needed to be extended."

Mr Hughes added: "What we will be looking for now is a full, open and transparent declaration of what they heard at everyone of the consultations they attended and then based on what they heard why they made the decision.

"Because if they got it wrong in one place, and then reversed their decision, there is quite a high level of probability that they got it wrong in a number of other places."

Sinn Fein MLA for South Down, Willie Clarke, told the Assembly insufficient consideration was given to the impact of the closures on vulnerable members of society.

Full details and the issues raised during public consultation can be viewed through www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange.

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