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FOR THE AXE.

Byline: By PAUL MAUNDER AND LAUREN TURNER South Wales Echo

Thirteen post offices in Cardiff and the Vale are facing the axe. Post Office chiefs are planning to close 11 branches in Cardiff and two in the Vale of Glamorgan by January next year, they announced today.

Customers have reacted angrily to the news, saying a vital lifeline is being taken away from them. Pensioner Mary Lucas, from Ely, Cardiff, said: 'I think it's disgusting.'

The company says falling customer numbers and increased running costs have contributed to its decision to strip the number of branches in the capital and in Barry.: FROM PAGES 4 & 5 CLOSED?:Thousands of customers are set to be hit by a wave of post office closures. The Post Office has announced plans to close 11 branches in Cardiff and two in Barry by January next year because it does not believe they will be financially viable in the future.

Falling customer numbers and increased running costs have contributed to the company's decision to strip down the number of branches in the capital.

A six-week consultation is now under way but the closures are proposed to take place in January 2005.

The managers, who privately run these branches, said they expected the proposed closures after being hit hard by a decline in pension payments.

But customers and local politicians have reacted with anger to the proposals.

Postwatch, the consumer watchdog for the postal service, is scrutinising the Post Office's plans while it is being consulted by the company.

Dave Barrett, head of area of Post Office Ltd in Wales, said: 'As a large, national organisation, we have many challenges facing our long-term viability, mainly due to falling customers numbers, increasing running costs and customer choice about how their benefits are paid, with the introduction last year of direct payment into bank accounts.

'Following our comprehensive review of the Post Office branches in the Cardiff area we firmly believe there are just too many branches competing to serve both the existing and forecast customer base.'

Eifion Pritchard, chairman of Postwatch Wales, said: 'We have only just entered the public consultation process and are examining the proposals.

'It is fair to say that we have reservations over the proposals for Cadoxton in Barry and Beechley Drive in Cardiff - which are both relatively busy post offices - and Ely and Glan Ely post offices as they are both in urban deprived areas.

'The urban post office network has suffered from years of decline and sub-postmasters are leaving. Something must be done.': 'A great blow for these communities':Julie Morgan is MP for Cardiff North where there are five post offices under threat of closure. She said: 'I'm very shocked because Cardiff North seems to be suffering more than the other areas.

'It's a great blow for these communities. I'm unhappy about all of these proposals.

'I think the closures are going to inconvenience a lot of people.

Kevin Brennan is MP for Cardiff West, where three post offices are closing.

He said: 'I am concerned these post offices are in areas where there is deprivation and isolation involved, and are a vital part of the community.

'I understand the Post Office has to break even or try to make a profit overall but in doing so I think it's vitally important that they listen carefully to what residents say during the consultation process.'

John Owen Jones is MP for Cardiff Central where two post offices are set to close.

He said: 'I've made representations to the Post Office in support of maintaining both these post offices, which play an important part in the community.

'However, I can understand each post office is a private business and they need a viable business plan to make them work.'

John Smith is MP for the Vale of Glamorgan where two post offices are closing.

He said: 'These two post offices are heavily relied upon by many people in the area.

'It is very often the most disadvantaged people who rely on the post office the most, and I am concerned that they might not be able to get to other branches as easily. 'I am concerned about the impact these closures will have on the community.': What you can doa:The proposals to close down 11 branches will go out to consultation to the public today before any final decisions are taken by the Post Office. Anyone who wants to comment on the proposals should write to Dave Barrett, Head of Area for Wales, National Consultation Team, PO Box 2060, Watford, WD18 8ZW. The closing date is November 3, when the consultation ends.: FROM PAGE 10: Listen to customers:News that 13 post offices in Cardiff and the Vale could be shut will not go down well. With the Royal Mail already in the dog house for its woeful postal service, thousands of customers could now see their post office closed in a matter of months. For those with transport, the journey to a new post office will not be too much of a bind. But what about those who have no means of getting to a post office other than on foot?

You would hope that the powers that be listen to the people who matter - their customers - and make their decisions based, not only on finance, but on the needs and wants of the public. Only time will tell.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 23, 2004
Words:899
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