Fury as Northumberland village post office to close at the end of the month 'without consultation'

The leader of Northumberland County Council has penned a furious letter to the Post Office after it the shock announcement that the branch in a Northumberland village would be closing at the end of the month.

The postmaster at Shilbottle Post Office has resigned, withdrawing the premises for Post Office use from May 30. The Post Office say that due to the "challenging economic climate", the Grange Road outlet will not reopen.

Council leader Glen Sanderson has stepped in to express his disappointment at the closure, arguing it was done without engaging with the community. In a letter seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, he urged the Post Office to reverse the decision.

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Coun Sanderson wrote: "I write to express my disappointment at the hastily announced closure of the Post Office Branch in Shilbottle, Northumberland. I’m surprised the Post Office appears to have taken this decision without any
consultation or prior communication with the very communities it is meant to serve.

"The closure, due at the end of this month, will impact on many for whom the local Post Office is a lifeline, particularly older and vulnerable people. The loss of banking services in Alnwick will compound this and further isolate people in rural communities."

The Longhorsley councillor also appeared to reference the Post Office scandal involving the Horizon computer system. An error in the saw more than 900 subpostmasters convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting based on faulty data between 1999 and 2015.

Coun Sanderson continued: "At a time when the Post Office should be doing all it can to rebuild trust with the communities it serves, I fear the closure of Shilbottle’s Branch without any consultation signals the very opposite. I urge you to reconsider this decision which will damage communities and isolate people.

"If the Shilbottle Branch cannot be saved in its current form, I call on the Post Office to work with local communities, including the parish council and my council, to put in place outreach provision.

"I am aware the Post Office may be considering outreach provision for Shilbottle, and if indeed this is the case, I welcome this move. However, I stress the need for consultation and much better communication from the Post Office with communities and the Council moving forward.

"The people of Shilbottle and other rural communities have been loyal patrons of the Post Office over many decades. They deserve better from the Post Office."

Responding to Coun Sanderson's comments, a spokeswoman for the Post Office said: "Regrettably, the postmaster for Shilbottle Post Office has resigned and the premises withdrawn for Post Office use.

"The branch will be closing on Thursday 30 May 5.30pm. We apologise for any inconvenience that this closure may cause. In a very challenging economic climate Post Office has undertaken a comprehensive review of the network at a very detailed, local level, analysing customer demand and accessibility of Post Office products and services.

"Consequently, with finite funding and resources that need to be allocated to deliver maximum benefit for all our customers. At this time, therefore, we are not looking to replace Shilbottle Post Office. Alternative branches in the area include Wagonway Road and Alnwick branches.”

The nearest branch of the Post Office is on Wagonway Road in Alnwick, three miles away.