CLOSING seven post offices in Huntingdonshire is yet another chip at the block of life in the rural community, say post office customers, councillors and MPs. Yesterday s (Tuesday) announcement by Post Office Ltd could see Catworth, Earith, Great Gidding,
CLOSING seven post offices in Huntingdonshire is yet another chip at the block of life in the rural community, say post office customers, councillors and MPs.
Yesterday's (Tuesday) announcement by Post Office Ltd could see Catworth, Earith, Great Gidding, Great Gransden, Great Stukeley, Holme and Ramsey St Mary's closed in October.
If the plans go through as announced (and the majority of Post Office Ltd's schemes around the country have not been successfully challenged), Catworth, Great Gidding, Holme and Great Stukeley would all close.
Mobile services would replace the Catworth, Holme and Great Gidding branches for a few hours each week. There would be no provision at Great Stukeley.
At Earith the services would be moved into the Riverview Hotel, whilst new 'partnership' deals with retailers would be offered in Ramsey St Mary and Great Gransden.
However, postmasters are quick to point out that the deal does not mean village post offices or shops are safe from closure. No details of the deals have been released and there is no indication of what post office services would be retained. Indeed, there is no indication a village shop would survive without a full contract from the Post Office.
Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly told The Hunts Post: "If a local post office closes, often the last shop in the village closes as well. A van for a couple of weeks is no replacement for a post office open full-time.
"This closure programme is an attack on British rural life."
Mr Djanogly, who has three threatened branches in his constituency, will deliver a petition, signed by more than 6,000 Hunts Post readers, to Downing Street later this month.
North-West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara, who represents four Huntingdonshire communities where closures are planned, added: "Each and every post office will be missed by residents if they close. This will have a profound effect."
Great Gransden district councillor Barbara Boddington said closing the village's branch would have a 'devastating' impact.
The Stukeleys parish council chairman Terry Pinner said the villages were going to lose 'our eyes and ears'.
Catworth postmaster Alan Kiberd said the planned closure of his branch was 'predictable' but urged locals to fight to save a post office that has existed for generations.
Ian Stapleton, a parish councillor in The Giddings, blamed Government penny-pinching for the closures. He said: "All they care about is money."
As well as the seven Huntingdonshire branches under threat, nearby branches at Elsworth, Upper Dean and Fen Drayton are facing the chop.
Large-scale campaigns are set to be launched in Great Gransden and Earith, in particular. More than half of villagers in Earith have signed The Hunts Post's petition.
Pat McFadden, the Government Minister for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs, said: "While I know no one wants to see post offices closing, it is clear that as a society we are using them a lot less as more services become available online.
"Under the proposals for Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and South Lincolnshire, 91.4 per cent of the population will see no change to the branch they currently use and 99.3 per cent will see no change to the branch they currently use or will remain within one mile by road of an alternative outlet."
nPost Office Ltd is shutting 2,500 post office branches across the country as part of its 'Network Change' programme. It says that smaller post offices are not financially viable.