Secrecy claim over post office closures

The war of words over the threatened closure of 69 post offices in Norfolk and west Suffolk became more intense last night as campaigners accused Post Office bosses of secrecy and withholding key information.

The war of words over the threatened closure of 69 post offices in Norfolk and west Suffolk became more intense last night as campaigners accused Post Office bosses of secrecy and withholding key information.

Councillors say they are being refused reasons about why some branches have been earmarked for the axe and not being given financial figures which would help them draft informed arguments to keep the vital hubs open.

Norfolk County Council took the unusual step of seeking answers through freedom of information (FoI) laws - and has complained after failing to get a clear response.

But the Post Office last night defended its position, saying the criteria for closure were made clear by the government from the outset.


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And it said while financial information about branches was not generally available, it was given to any councils interested in taking them over, but with certain provisos.

The “save them” campaign will get another airing today in the Lords by former Norfolk MP Baroness Shephard who will launch a stinging attack on the “random” nature of the proposed closures and the impact for the poor, elderly and disadvantaged in getting to alternative branches.

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County council concern about the closures saw leader Daniel Cox fire off a FoI request in February asking for the methodology, criteria and target numbers, and querying if there was any regional weighting behind the plans.

Instead of replying inside the required 20 days, an answer arrived in April, which Mr Cox said was “bland and ambiguous”.

The council has now complained to the Post Office and is poised to raise the matter with the Information Commissioner if it is not happy with the outcome.

Mr Cox said: “Usually people are sending FoI requests in to us, but we felt we had to do it because of the lack of transparency. If we are to chall-enge the proposals, we must under-stand where they are coming from.”

The Post Office's original response said the original proposals and website outlined the network change criteria, along with assurances that no part of the country would be adversely affected more than any other.

Last night, a Post Office spokesman said he could not comment on an ongoing FoI request, but again stressed “there is no secret about the criteria”.

He added: “We are doing all we can to put the Post Office network on a sustainable footing going forward, as it is losing £3.5m a week and is serving four million fewer customers a week now than it was two years ago.”

It was implementing the government closure decision “as sensitively as possible” according to strict criteria set by the government and “every decision is a difficult decision”.

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