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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 10:37 GMT 11:37 UK
300m to aid rural post offices
Post Office Ltd
150 rural post offices were closed last year
A 300m investment package to try and halt the closure of rural post offices has been announced by the government.

A 450m aid programme designed to help modernise and extend services is due to run out in 2006, raising fears of further shut-downs after this date.

Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said the new investment would be available from 2006 to 2008.

There are 8,122 rural post offices, but the number has been falling in recent years - 150 closed last year.

Ms Hewitt said rural post offices faced "real challenges".

Hundreds close

For many individual offices the number of customers they served was too small to make the business sustainable, she admitted.

"This new money will give the Post Office time to develop and test new ways to meet the changing needs of customers," she said.

Almost 150 rural post offices closed in the last financial year. In 2000/2001, 441 rural offices shut down.

The Royal Mail said in most cases it could not find anyone to take over from a sub-postmaster or sub-postmistress who was retiring or leaving.

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