Local post offices face further uncertainty

Councillor warns that the recent changes to the benefit payments system threaten more closures of sub-post offices in Chiswick

With the closure of one Chiswick sub-post office imminent and the announcement of the demise of another, concern is growing that further post offices in the area will be lost.

Councillor Peter Thompson this week blamed the Government's new policy on benefits which he says has both reduced usage of smaller post offices and caused confusion for claimant.

The government has recently changed the payments system so that many pensioners and other benefit claimants will soon be no longer able to receive payments in cash at their post office. The alternative system of bank accounts or the Post Office Card Accounts have left many confused as to how to receive their regular benefit payments according to Cllr. Thompson.

He said, "The changeover has also removed up to 40 per cent of the income of the average sub-post office, yet the Government has failed to put in place any of the measures promised to help them make up the income that they will lose. The consequence is that many of Chiswick’s post offices are at risk."

The Post Office on Church Street (near Fuller’s Brewery) is due to close and the sub post office at Southfield Road will meet the same fate in July. Cllr. Thompson urged people who use the Church Street post office to participate in a consultation which ends on June 17th.

He added, "Changes to the benefit system have created confusion and uncertainty for the most vulnerable parts of society who rely on the weekly cash income. A community’s post office is vital to those who need it the most: the elderly and disadvantaged. Chiswick's ’s sub-post offices must be preserved. ”

Of the 17,000 Post Offices in England, the overwhelming majority of outlets are sub-post offices run by private businessmen and women. Benefit payments account for 35 per cent of a sub-post office’s business. Upon the change to ACT benefit payments, this revenue will be lost.

George Hooper, Head of Area for the Post Office, said: "Proposals to close Post Office Branches are not made without considerable research and discussion so we are anxious that customers and all relevant organisations understand our rationale and have the opportunity to give us their views.''

Anyone with views should contact Mr Hooper by Tuesday June 17th in writing to National Consultation Team, PO Box 641, St. Albans, AL1 5XN.

May 22, 2003

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