Minister hails plan to save rural POs

Rural post offices could be saved from closure if they were turned into “community hubs” providing people with anything from debt advice, local produce to access to the internet, the minister responsible for the service was told yesterday .

Rural post offices could be saved from closure if they were turned into "community hubs" providing people with anything from debt advice, local produce to access to the internet, the minister responsible for the service was told yesterday.

A delegation from Norfolk Rural Community Council arrived in London yesterday to tell the MPs and ministers of its plans to pilot the hub idea in the county.

NRCC officials and Norfolk MPs Keith Simpson, Norman Lamb, Richard Bacon, Henry Bellingham, Tony Wright, Ian Gibson and Charles Clarke met the junior minister responsible for post offices, Jim Fitzpatrick.

Peter Smith, community enterprise co-ordinator for the NRCC, said the hour-long meeting was an enormous success.

He said: "The junior minis-ter wants us to put together more details of our plans and how they may work to show the commission discussing the future of post offices.

"We also met up with a panel of civil servants who work in that area to discuss our ideas and talk them through. They were all very pleased that we had taken such a pro-active approach to the problem."

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Mr Smith added: "All of the MPs guaranteed us their support and asked us to go back to them with some idea of costing and details of the pilots which would be run in the Norfolk area. We had a really successful day and feel that we have achieved a lot.

"We just needed to explain to the government what needed to be done. People don't want just a post office any more. We need to change things to make them indispensable."