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Essex Post Office pilot on blocks

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Essex CC expects to have a blueprint ready next month to help other councils save threatened postal services.

The county is the pilot in negotiations with the Post Office to retain branches, or replace them with services provided by the council, but has to overcome legal and business issues first (LGC, 15 May).

Leader Lord Hanningfield (Con) said more than 200 other councils had approached Essex to find out more. Warwickshire CC has already signed an agreement with the Post Office to relocate the Warwick branch to the council’s new one-stop shop at its Shire Hall HQ.

“This is one of the most popular things I have known a council do,” Lord Hanningfield told a Local Government Association conference last week.

Essex has earmarked£500,000 for postal services, which it expects to put into its libraries, community centre and schools, and possibly also village churches, pubs and shops.

LGA chairman Sir Simon Milton (Con) met with Post Office chief executive Alan Cook on Friday to relay the complaints of numerous councils that the Post Office has refused to answer requests for details on the financial situation of threatened branches.

An spokesman from the LGA described the talks as “constructive”. A joint announcement is expected within a month.

At the conference, Sue Huggins, the Post Office’s project director for the closure programme, stressed the company was willing to work with councils. But she warned the Post Office would not allow councils to provide services where these would endanger the viability of another post office nor allow them to top-up the cost of an outreach service typically a van that visits villages to match the cost of reopening a branch.

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