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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 December 2007, 15:56 GMT
Post office closure plan released
Rural post office
Some rural post offices provide the only access to cash in their area
The Post Office has named 36 branches it proposes to close in West Berkshire and Wiltshire under plans to shut 2,500 nationwide by the end of 2008.

The Post Office said 223 branches would remain open across the two counties and 11 "outreach" services would replace branches in smaller communities.

A public consultation on the plans ends on 31 January 2008.

About 99.4% of people in the area will face no changes or will remain within a mile of a branch, the Post Office said.

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The government said four million fewer people were using the current 14,000-strong network each week than two years ago.

Ministers say cuts are needed as the network has been losing 4m a week.

Mohammed Akram, who runs the post office on Kentwood Hill, Tilehurst, said the plans to shut his branch would affect the most vulnerable members of the community, especially older people.

"If they haven't got transport it is an absolute disaster for them," he said.

"The post office is something in the community that everybody uses, especially now that they can access bank accounts from here."

'Vital amenities'

He added: "The other post offices are going to have longer and longer queues."

Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury, has been campaigning against the closures.

He said: "I would urge every single constituent who opposes the closures of these valuable local ppst offices to make their own submissions to the consultation, expressing dismay at the proposed closures.

"Our local post offices are vital amenities and often the only accessible shop for elderly or disabled people."

Under the plans rural parts of the area - where 43% of the population live - would be served by a total of 140 branches, 80 of which provide the only access to cash in their communities.

We want to ensure that everyone is both fully aware of the proposed changes, and able to give views on them
Tim Nickolls, Post Office

Tim Nickolls, the Post Office's network development manager for the region, said closing a branch was always a "difficult" decision.

"We want to ensure that everyone who uses, relies on or has any concern with Post Office services is both fully aware of the proposed changes, and able to give views on them.

"We believe these proposals offer the best prospect for a sustainable way forward for Post Office services in West Berkshire and Wiltshire, bearing in mind the minimum access criteria and the other factors to which we have to have regard."

The suggested outreach services for small communities facing closure of their local branch could include a mobile service visiting small communities at set times or a service provided by a local group or business such as a pub.

There have been several regional announcements about Post Office closures across the UK since 2 October.

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