MPs have reacted with fury after it was revealed just one Birmingham post office had been saved as a result of a two-month consultation and 69 more in the Black Country, Worcestershire and Herefordshire are threatened with the axe.
Post Office Ltd announced that 55 services in Birmingham, Warwickshire and Solihull will close, including five which are to be replaced by part-time “outreach” services.
It means that of 56 branches named in a consultation document in June, just one, The Green post office in Kings Norton, has been saved. The rest are to close, including 25 branches in Birmingham, three in Solihull and seven in Coventry.
At the same time, Post Office Ltd launched a new consultation on more branch closures in other parts of the West Midlands.
A total of 69 services are under threat in the Black Country, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, including 13 which could be replaced by outreach services.
This could involve a mobile service visiting small communities at set times, a service with limited opening hours or a post office set up as part of another business such as a pub. The closures are part of a nationwide round of cuts which will see one in six branches close their doors.
Post Office Ltd insists changes are needed because of falling customer numbers and the increasing use of the internet to access services. The Post Office network has lost four million customers over the past two years and make a loss of £3.5 million a week. It currently receives a subsidy of £150 million each year from taxpayers.
The cutbacks have become a political football at Westminster, with Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs accusing Labour MPs of failing to oppose the changes.
However, Labour politicians argue everyone, including the opposition parties, know that reforms are needed. They have opposed the cuts in the West Midlands, but usually on the grounds that the wrong branches have been singled out for closure.
Stourbridge MP Lynda Waltho (Lab) said she was “furious” that the branch in Quarry Bank, in her constituency, had been selected for closure.
She said: “There is no escaping from the truth that some Post Offices are losing huge amounts of taxpayer’s money. Up and down the country there are branches that the tax payer is funding up to £17 per transaction.
“However, Quarry Bank Post Office is an essential focal point of the local community. It provides thousands of residents the chance to bank, pay bills locally and securely.
“I am determined that by working together with local residents we can urge the Post Office to think again. This closure will have a huge affect on the lives of my residents and is simply unacceptable.”
Birmingham MPs Lynne Jones (Selly Oak) and Richard Burden (Northfield) welcomed the decision to save the The Green Post Office in Kings Norton, in Selly Oak constituency.
But Mr Burden said he was “very dissapointed” at the decision to close Middlemore Road post office in his constituency.
Opposition MPs claimed their parties would not have allowed post offices to close.
Andrew Mitchell (Con Sutton Coldfield), the Tory Shadow Minister for Birmingham, said: “This will be a serious and in some cases devastating blow to local communities.
“What the Conservatives want to do is to inject new business into the Post Office network. What the Government has done, by contrast, is to starve Post Offices of funding.”
And Liberal Democrat Lorely Burt, MP for Solihull, said: “I’ve no doubt Post Office officials are just doing what they are told. However, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth for thousands of local people who did their best, only to have their efforts dismissed.”