Plans to close 2,500 post offices will ‘significantly’ affect local communities, especially hitting pensioners and disabled people, a new report warned today.
Citizens Advice said people will face extra costs travelling to other branches and be ‘cut off’ from essential services.
A survey of 1,000 people found that two thirds of those in rural areas relied on their local post office for groceries, with most saying they valued the convenient location.
Three out of four people who used a post office walked there, with most saying they would have to drive or catch a bus if it closed.
One woman on income support said she would have to spend £3.30 to get to the nearest post office if her local one closed. Other people said their local community would not survive without a post office.
In its response to the government’s consultation on the future of the post office network, which ends today, Citizens Advice said it was essential that in restructuring the network attention was focused on innovative ways of continuing to deliver services to those who relied on them most.
Senior Social Policy Officer Sue Edwards said: ‘Our survey confirms that local post offices are a lifeline for many of those living in rural areas and deprived parts of our towns and cities.
‘It leaves us in no doubt that it is pensioners, disabled people and those living on low incomes who rely the most on their local post office for basic services and who would therefore be worst hit by any changes or reduction in service.
‘Closing post offices may save money, but a high price will be paid by already disadvantaged individuals and communities.’
Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, said: ‘We want the government to really listen to those who have voiced their concerns about the restructuring of the network. There are serious problems with the government’s proposals for the post office network that we want to see addressed.
‘We are extremely worried that the 2,500 post office closures that have been announced will be a minimum rather than a maximum figure.’
Colin Baker, General Secretary of the National Federation of SubPostmasters, said: ‘We acknowledge that the government’s proposals are an important first step to achieving a viable and sustainable post office network, and many of the proposals are a victory for our campaign.
‘However, we remain concerned that the measures proposed so far will not produce the sustainable network which the nation requires.’
He added: ‘In its proposals, the government has gone some way to meet the wishes of the 26 million people who visit a post office every week to see the network survive. We therefore urge the government to go all the way and deliver a package that creates a sustainable network that can thrive.’
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