The Government recognise the important social and economic role of post offices, particularly in rural and deprived urban communities. That is why we are determined to maintain a national post office network allowing people to have reasonable access across the whole country and have put in place a new policy and financial framework to achieve this.
Under the Government's postal sector reforms introduced in 2001, Royal Mail (which includes Post Office Ltd) has been given greater commercial freedom, as the
management and unions themselves requested, and Government have assumed an arm's length role as a shareholder in a public limited company. Subject to agreeing its strategic plan with us, the board can structure the business as it decides best to meet the challenges of market development and changing customer needs.
The Government have introduced clearly defined national access criteria to maintain a national network and guarantee a reasonable level of access to post office services for all. Within the access criteria framework, however, the precise location of post office branches is an operational matter for Post Office Ltd and not for Government.
In 2007 the Government announced that up to 2,500 Post Offices out of around 14,000 would have to close to help stem losses of £4 million per week and to ensure the viability of the remaining network.
The New England post office was closed as part of Post Office Ltd's Network Change Programme following a six-week local consultation period. Post Office Ltd took the decision to close the branch according to the criteria set out under the Network Change Programme. Post Office Ltd took into account feedback from the consultation, in particular the accessibility of nearby post offices for elderly people, the effect of the closure on local shops and the adequacy of local bus services.
As there are two other post office branches within one mile of the New England branch and a regular bus service with disabled access, Post Office Ltd took the decision to close the branch. Additional services have been added to the two nearest alternative branches.
Post Office Ltd had to make hard choices in deciding which post offices should be closed but adhered to the Government's access criteria to ensure continuing reasonable access to services for customers.