Rally to save Suffolk's post offices

Saturday, 24 February, 2007

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to secure the future of rural post offices have held a rally in a Suffolk village in a bid to highlight their importance to the local community.

Around two dozen people were at Combs Ford Post Office, near Stowmarket, yesterday for the protest, organised by the Countryside Alliance.

Among those backing the rally was Conservative MP David Ruffley, who represents the Bury St Edmunds constituency.

He said: 'The government is consulting on plans to axe 2,500 Post Office branches so a show of support has never been more important.

'Combs Ford is a classic example of a sub Post Office and, whenever I visit, it is always busy and at the centre of village life.

'The owner does a fantastic job and it is of huge social importance. By stripping services from post offices across the country the Government is making it incredibly hard for sub postmasters to make a living and is ripping the heart out of village life.'

Combs Ford Post Office owner Deepak Suchak added: 'Everybody here supports the Post Office and I am fortunate that I am not under threat.

'However I won't lie and say that it's been easy because it hasn't. Fortunately, members of the public in this community are very supportive and we are extremely grateful for that.

'Hopefully this will continue into the future but there are sub postmasters who are struggling because they cannot make ends meet.'

Yesterday's rally was organised by the Countryside Alliance in partnership with Age Concern, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Post Offices, Communication Workers Union, National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, National Pensioners Convention, Royal National Institute for the Blind and the Townswomen's Guild.

It is part of a nationwide campaign to highlight the current government consultation on the future of post offices and to encourage people to support their local services.

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said the government recognised the important social role of the Post Office and would be investing a further £1.7billion into the network.

'However, there is widespread recognition the current size of the network is unsustainable because less and less people are using them,' he said.

n A rural Post Office which closed in November is set to reopen following a complete refurbishment.

Whepstead Post Office, near Bury St Edmunds, will be reopened on March 27 with a brand new service counter and a flat level entrance, as well as all the services customers found in the old office.