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Post Office accused of 'slash and burn' strategy as more Crown offices to close

The Post Office and the Government have been accused of "stunning arrogance" after news that a further 37 flagship Crown offices are to close, with the loss of 300 staff.

The announcement, coupled with the loss of 127 financial specialist roles, came just weeks after the closure of a consultation on the future of the postal service.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) said on top of the 62 branches announced for closure and franchise in 2016, the job cuts brings more "misery" to Post Office workers and customers.

General secretary Dave Ward said: "The latest round of closures is further evidence that the Post Office is in crisis and that the board of the company, backed by the Government, is simply pursuing a strategy of slash and burn.

"75,000 postcards were returned to the Government signed by members of the public calling for an end to the closure and franchise programme - the Post Office and the Government have completely ignored their views.

"The CWU will not accept this and we will be stepping up our political and industrial campaign to fight for the future of the Post Office."

Deputy general secretary Terry Pullinger said: "The arrogance of the Post Office and Government is stunning.

"The Post Office network has been reduced by more than 50% over the past 30 years and continues to be run down.

"It requires a proper business plan for growth and investment which is being ignored."

The Post Office said it will be seeking "partners" for 37 of its directly managed branches, in addition to 93 previously announced in the last calendar year, nearly half of which have now relocated into retail stores.

Roger Gale, sales and trade marketing director, said: "We're committed to maintaining the Post Office's special place on the high street and the changes we are making underpin our continued commitment to give communities in every part of the country access to essential services.

"The Post Office's network of more than 11,600 branches is easily the largest in the UK, with 17 million customer visits a week. The vast majority of these branches are run with partners, and in the locations announced today we believe this will also be a more sustainable approach for the long term.

"With consumer habits changing, and the high cost of maintaining premises in prime high street locations, franchising helps us to keep services where our customers want and need them.

"We will take time to identify the right partners over the coming months and all proposals will be subject to local consultation."

Unite officer Brian Scott said it was "salami slicing of a much respected and valued national institution in pursuit of profit", adding: "The public will suffer as services are continually and systematically eroded.

"This is another nail in the coffin of the Post Office and a move to online will make the Crown Office network superfluous to requirements.

"Customers who want to take up the services that the Post Office is offering will have to do it online or on the phone."

Gill Furniss, shadow minister for postal services, said: "This announcement comes before the Government has even responded to its consultation.

"This just shows that the Government is not serious about providing a long-term sustainable future for the Post Office, and even less so about taking on board the views of the public or Post Office workers."

Liberal Democrat business spokesman Don Foster said: "In the last government, Vince Cable and the Liberal Democrats secured a future for the Post Office that meant new branches were opening by 2015.

"In under two years the Conservatives governing alone have managed to destroy that future."

A Business Department spokesman said: "While these are operational decisions for the Post Office, franchising post offices is not about closing branches.

"In all 37 cases the Post Office's clear intention is to ensure that branches relocate nearby and that services remain available.

"Between 2010 and 2018, the Government will have invested £2 billion in modernising the post office network, making it the most stable network in decades having grown last year with over 11,600 branches across the UK.

"It is right that the business should ensure it is delivering for its customers as efficiently and effectively as possible to reduce the amount of taxpayer subsidy it requires."

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