Ruffley campaigns to save pensioners' 'lifeline'

Wednesday, 27 September, 2006

David Ruffley MP, the Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform, has today reiterated his commitment to campaign to save the rural post office network following an Age Concern report that shows that 99 percent of older people in rural areas consider their local post office to be 'a lifeline'.

Suffolk Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) recently highlighted their concern that up to 50 village post offices in Suffolk and Essex could be under threat if the Government decides to halt its financial support to the rural network in March 2008.

The Age Concern report reveals that rural post offices provide much more than just a postal service to older people. Many pensioners use their post office as a 'one-stop shop' to access their pension and benefits, pay their bills, get advice and information, and socialise with others.

Closures would leave many older people increasingly financially and socially excluded.

David Ruffley has written to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alistair Darling, and the Chief Executive of the Royal Mail Group, Adam Crozier, asking them in no uncertain terms to clarify the future of Suffolk's rural post office network.

David said:

'This Age Concern report highlights the very real worry that without a rural post office network our elderly residents will become increasingly isolated.

'It is a shocking fact that 88 percent of elderly rural residents will have to make special travel arrangements to reach alternative services if they lose their local post office, while 73 percent feel they wouldn't be able to access similar services in their local area.

'Age Concern is right to call rural post offices a 'lifeline'; in isolated rural communities they can be one of the only links elderly residents have with the wider community.

'It is the smaller and isolated post offices that are most vulnerable to closure, however, these are the ones with the most important role in village life.

'We must do all we can to safeguard the future of the rural post office network and I have asked both the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Chief Executive of the Royal Mail Group to clarify, in no uncertain terms, the future of Suffolk's rural post offices beyond March 2008.'