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Threatened post office a lifeline

PUBLISHED: 19:00 15 April 2008 | UPDATED: 21:03 07 July 2010

THEY are sisters who have lived in the same village since they were born, for getting on for 100 years.

Once members of a large family, 93-year-old Iris Squires and 96-year-old Alice Syzling now only have each other and live just a couple of houses apart in Croxton.

THEY are sisters who have lived in the same village since they were born, for getting on for 100 years.

Once members of a large family, 93-year-old Iris Squires and 96-year-old Alice Syzling now only have each other and live just a couple of houses apart in Croxton.

Mrs Squires suffers from severe arthritis and finds it difficult to leave her home, especially in cold, damp weather, so Mrs Syzling does everything for her beloved sister, including cooking her a meal every night, collecting her pension and withdrawing and paying in money to the bank.

But now their world is set to drastically change after Mrs Syzling's lifeline, the village post office, has been earmarked for closure.

Mrs Syzling said: “It's the heart of this village. It's a place to meet. You see people you wouldn't normally see. You can make friends, catch up. A lot of people like us wouldn't see each other if it wasn't for the post office.

“It has everything I need. I can collect mine and my sister's pension, do our banking and pick up the local paper. It sells all I need.

“The post office is my lifeline. I go there every morning, have a chat and can sort out everything I need to. Every village needs a post office.

“When I was growing up there was always one. I can't imagine a place without one. We have a great social club and another shop but it's not the same. Without a post office this village will die.”

The Croxton branch is one of 69 post offices across Norfolk and west Suffolk earmarked for closure.

Post Office bosses want to close 2,500 branches out of 14,000 across the country and claim 4m fewer customers a week are using their services compared with two years ago.

And they also say some post offices have as few as 16 customers a week leading to the business losing £4m a week.

While the number of closures will not change, which post offices are closed could, and proposals are out to public consultation until June 2.

Should the Croxton branch shut, the nearest post office would be Thetford, and as there is no bus service the only way the sisters could get to it would be by paying around £10 for a taxi.

Mrs Syzling said: “I suppose you don't really value a post office if you have a car. But neither me nor my sister has one.

“There are no buses so we'd need to get a taxi there and back. People have told me there's always a queue at the Thetford branch. My sister can't stand in line for that amount of time.

“Then we'd need to go to the bank. If we were making weekly trips we'd have to get enough to last us all week, and in this day and age it's not safe to keep too much money in the house.

“I can't use the machines, all those numbers can be very fiddly. Sometimes if it's a nice day my sister will come with me but she couldn't make it to Thetford.”

Melanie Corfield, the Post Office's external relations manager, said: “These are the sorts of things we want to hear as that's what the consultation is for.

“The consultation doesn't finish until June 2nd. People have plenty of time to tell us.

“However at the end of the consultation we do have to make some difficult decisions as post offices do have to close. We know that these decisions will inconvenience some people.

“Our main aim in implementing government policy is trying to mitigate so as few people as possible are inconvenienced, which is why numbers of people using a post office and transport issues are important.

“While we did our work thoroughly we're not perfect and could have missed things like lack of transport, which is why I'd urge people to write in and make us aware of the circumstances.”

Tomorrow a Breckland overview and scrutiny meeting will see councillors discuss the closure proposals. Last time it was mentioned members strongly objected to the consultation and aired concerns about the hardship the moves would have on rural communities.

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