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POST OFFICES FACING THE AXE.

Byline: By David James and Gareth Rogers South Wales Echo

THIRTY ONE post offices face the axe under cost-cutting plans. Branches across Cardiff and the South Wales Valleys will be closed under the shock Post Office proposals. The Echo has obtained a leaked copy of the plan which was set to be put out for consultation next Tuesday. Postmasters, customers and politicians today spoke of their outrage and pledged to fight the planned closures. Postmaster Gurmit Randhawa, of the Sanquahar Street Post Office in Splott, Cardiff, said: Its crazy.: FROM PAGE 4&5: 'Labour's signed death warrant for branches':It's the news thousands of the most vulnerable people in South Wales have been dreading - 31 local post offices are set to close. The Echo has been given a consultation paper listing six post offices in Cardiff and 25 across the Valleys, Bridgend and the Vale that would close under the cost-cutting scheme.

Those 31 branches are a SIXTH of the 180 in the region.

The Post Office will announce the list on Tuesday at the start of a six-week consultation period - and several postmasters only heard for the first time last night.

Postmasters, customers and opposition politicians today told the Echo they would not give up the branches without a fight.

Gurmit and Harbrinder Randhawa have run the post office in Sanquahar Street, Splott, Cardiff, for 20 years and say they are making money.

Mr Randhawa, 55, said: "I could understand them wanting to shut us down if we were failing, but we are making money. It's crazy.

"It seems to me that someone in the head office has just pointed at a map and closed down as many post offices as they could.

"I feel sorry for our customers, especially the elderly ones, who will have to travel for miles now to get to their nearest post office."

The 31 branches in Cardiff, Cynon Valley, Merthyr, Rhymney, Pontypridd, Rhondda, Bridgend and the Vale of Glamorgan have been chosen because they are not well-enough used.

They are among 2,500 mainly rural post offices that are likely to close under cost-cutting plans announced by the Government in December last year.

The 1,400-strong branch network across the UK is set to lose its pounds 150m-a-year subsidy in 2008 and last year the Department of Trade and Industry described the size of the network as "unsustainable".

Plaid AM Chris Franks said the plan was "shocking.

He said: "Plaid will be vociferously opposing this savage post office closure programme by Labour in London.

"Our post offices have suffered a sustained attack by successive Tory and New Labour administrations."

In Canton and Riverside in Cardiff, where the small post office on Cowbridge Road East near the junction with Neville Street is listed for closure, customers said they used the branch frequently.

Lee Stephens, 28, of Neville Street, Riverside, said: "I don't even know where any other post office is. I don't know what I'll do if I need to buy a stamp or an envelope or something."

Mechanic Mike James, 41, of neighbouring Manderville Street, said: "I use the post office now and again because it's handy for me. It seems stupid them closing it down because it always seems busy when I go"

Local councillor Ramesh Patel added: "This is on a main road into the city and must get a lot of passing trade. I am worried that people in my ward will suffer.

Cardiff North AM Jonathan Morgan blamed the Government and said it would be difficult to save many branches given the state of their books.

He said: "The Post Office have been put in the most dreadful position by the Government.

"It smacks of ignorance and stupidity that governments have not been willing to consider a range of other services that could be delivered through the Post Office network."

He said the Labour Party had "signed the death warrant" of post offices by removing their monopoly on supplying benefits, car tax and other government services.

He said the loss of the Llandaff North post office on Evansfield Road would be a blow to the area - and the news that the branch was slated for closure came as a shock last night to the man who has run it for five years.

Postmaster Graham Holton said: "I will wait and see what Royal Mail tell me, but it would have been nice to have been the first to know."

A spokeswoman for the Post Office said: "The public consultation for the proposed changes to the Post Office network in the Cardiff and Glamorgan Valleys area will start on Tuesday, October 30, and will last for six weeks, in line with the agreed process.

"At this time, we will be announcing details of the proposals, which will also be available on the Post Office's own website at www.postoffice.co.uk/networkchange.": The CLOSURES:The post offices facing the axe are: Salisbury Road, Cathays Evansfield Road, Llandaff North Newport Road, St Mellons Pill Street, Cogan Sanquahar Street, Splott Splott Road, Splott Cowbridge Road, Canton CYNON VALLEY Glancynon, Abercynon Glyn Gwyn Street, Miskin Gadlys Road, Aberdare Merthyr Road, Llwydcoed, Aberdare Penderyn Community Centre, Penderyn MERTHYR TYDFIL Chapel Street, Abercarnaid, pictured above Dan-Y-Twyn, Quakers Yard Station Square, Merthyr Vale RHYMNEY VALLEY Jerusalem Street, Rhymney Bristol Terrace, Brithdir Swan Street, Llantrisant Cardiff Road, Nantgarw Graigwen Road, Graigwen Hopkinstown Road, Hopkinstown Leyshon Street, The Graig Tynybryn Road, Tonyrefail Ynswen Road, Abergorky, Treorchy Commercial Street, Blaenllechau Miskin Road, Trealaw Court Street, Blaenclydach Spar Convenience Store, Llewellyn Street, Pentre Trehafod Road, Trehafod VALE OF GLAMORGAN High Street, Barry Rhoslanog, Parc Newydd, Bridgend.: FROM PAGE 5: 'STORM OF PROTEST ON ITS WAY':The closure of eight post offices in Merthyr and the Cynon Valley will provoke a storm of protest, community leaders said. Carole House, 64, a director of Quakers Yard Community Association, Merthyr, said: "We'll fight it. Besides providing a valuable service it's a place where people meet up, have a chat, keep in touch."

Councillor John Daniel, of Trecynon, Aberdare, who is affected by the closures of branches in Llwydcoed and Gadlys Road said: "I imagine there will be quite a storm of protest.

"Many of the older people still rely on getting their pensions via post offices."

Natalie James, 37, whose parents are licensees at the Red Lion pub in the village of Penderyn, said: "I think it's terrible, particularly for the older people who need to cash their pension.": Closure plans spark fury in the Valleys:Plans to close post offices in small Valleys communities provoked fury. Councillors said the plans were "an absolute disgrace" and would devastate community life. Rhymney Councillor Peter Bailie said the proposed closure of the Jerusalem Street post office would devastate the bottom end of Rhymney.

He said: "It's an absolute disgrace because in small communities like Rhymney its the life blood to the community and a lot of people use that one."

Speaking about the plans to close the Bristol Terrace Post Office in Brithdir near New Tredegar, Councillor Les Rees said his community would be hit even harder. "People will have to go to the one in Bargoed or New Tredegar. But Bargoed is over three miles away." Our View: Page 24
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 26, 2007
Words:1206
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