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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 October 2007, 20:06 GMT 21:06 UK
Why are post offices at-risk?
By Martin Shankleman
BBC employment correspondent

Post Office sign
Branch numbers have fallen from 25,000 in the 1960s to 14,000
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It is the measure of the pressure on Royal Mail that it is planning such a concentrated programme of compulsory post office closures.

Until recently, management preferred to seek volunteers for closure, and avoided enforced cuts.

But the Post Office says it has no choice.

The government, concerned at the network's mounting debts, has told it to close up to 2,500 post offices over the next 18 months.

The aim is to curb losses running at 4m a week.

A number of small rural offices seem hopelessly uneconomic, according to figures produced by the government.

They show the 800 smallest rural post offices are used by fewer than 16 people a week, which equates to a cost of 17 per visit.

However some of the offices set for closure claim they are thriving and profitable.

Martin Bailey-Dalton, who recently bought the office in Beverley, East Yorks, for 250,000 claims it takes 160,000 each week, and has a healthy future.

But even so the underlying problem facing the network are large.

It has been losing large numbers of customers who used to come to the Post Office to claim their benefits.

The government's decision to allow payments straight into claimant's bank accounts has robbed the network of many clients, and management have yet to find a replacement customer base.


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