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Post Office branches face the chop

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The fate of the Post Office hangs in the balance as the Government is set to announce its plans for the future of the national PO branch network.

Trade and Industry secretary, Alistair Darling, will reveal the level of UK investment it intends to make in running the network, especially rural branches, but the prognosis is not good for best investment hopes.

However, it is believed by many observers that up to 3,000 branches could be closed in the new funding package. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has described the current network of 14,000 branches as “unsustainable”.

The Royal Mail receives £150m at the moment and this level of support is set to continue to 2008. But the network is currently losing £4m a week, up from £2m last year, as a result of losing key business contracts and UK investment experts say this is too much.

Post offices havce also been hard hit by the Government’s decision to pay pension and child benefit directly into people’s UK current accounts. The sale of driving licences, TV licences and passports has also been switched to the online market or other retailers.

Many sub-postmasters have said that the strain of not knowing who will be axed or who will stay is adding intolerable pressure to their daily working lives.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said: “You cannot carry on putting a massive amount of public subsidy in the form of UK investment into this. We will look for ways in which we can hopefully stabilise the situation, and give the majority of post offices a way forward.”



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