Ruffley asks: "What is the future for Sufolk's rural Post Offices?"

Wednesday, 15 November, 2006

David Ruffley MP, the Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform, has today given his backing to the Countryside Alliance campaign to secure the future of the Post Office Network.

Suffolk Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) recently expressed their concern that up to 50 village post offices in Suffolk and Essex could be under threat if the Government decides to halt its financial support to the rural network in March 2008.

David has joined the campaign today by writing urgently to Jim Fitzpatrick, Parliamentary under Secretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry, stating just how important the rural Post Office Network is to Suffolk residents and asking precisely when a decision will be made on post March 2008 funding.

Countryside Alliance research suggests that 91 percent of people feel that Post Offices play an important role in their community, this is particularly poignant given that 7 out of 10 villages in England no longer have a shop.

Countryside Alliance members are being asked to write, alongside David Ruffley, to Jim Fitzpatrick telling him exactly what their local Post Office means to them and what the loss would mean to their local community.

David said:

'Research from the Countryside Alliance tells us that 91 percent of people feel that their local Post Office plays an important role in their community. This figure, coupled with the Age Concern report I highlighted last month which showed 98 percent of elderly people regard their local Post Office as a 'lifeline', shows just how essential the rural Post Office network is.

'I took the matter up with the Chief Executive of Royal Mail, Adam Crozier, and asked what guarantees they could offer for the future of Suffolk's rural Post Offices beyond March 2008- they could offer none.

'Indeed Royal Mail seem almost as desperate as we are for an answer from this Government, their Network Planning Manager, Nick Beal, told me 'We would obviously desire clarity on the post 2008 situation as soon as is feasible, as this would help us plan forward'.

'March 2008 may sound a long way off but it is little more than 16 months away- an axe is hanging over Suffolk's rural Post Offices and Royal Mail is incapable of planning for the future due to this Government's indecision.

'Therefore, I have today written to Jim Fitzpatrick backing the Countryside Alliance campaign and asking him, quite simply, when a decision will be made on funding for the rural network beyond March 2008 because at the moment the people of Suffolk do not know what the future has in store and, quite absurdly, neither do Royal Mail.'