In a final bid to mitigate the severity of post office closures in Torridge and West Devon, Geoffrey Cox MP has urged the Government in the House of Commons to examine the outcome of the Post Office Closure programme in Devon, which, he said, had resulted

In a final bid to mitigate the severity of post office closures in Torridge and West Devon, Geoffrey Cox MP has urged the Government in the House of Commons to examine the outcome of the Post Office Closure programme in Devon, which, he said, had resulted in a disproportionate burden on rural communities in his constituency, and on Devon as a whole. The debate on closures in Torridge and West Devon, secured by the MP, was attended, at the invitation of Geoffrey Cox, by local postmistresses, Jeanette Hendrie of St Giles in the Heath, Shirley Hoskin of Meeth, and Naomi Nardi from Bridestowe, who were able to meet the Minister Malcolm Wicks for an informal discussion afterwards. The decisions on which branches will close are expected next week. The MP also strongly criticised the Post Office Ltd. for failing to disclose the crucial details of the financial benefit to the company of closing individual branches where the agent had given permission, and for the inadequacy of its outreach proposals. In a controversial move, the MP invoked parliamentary privilege to reveal the cost savings to the Post Office Ltd. of closing a number of individual branches in Torridge and West Devon. The details had been provided to him by the Post Office Ltd with a request for confidentiality, after the MP had pursued them from the Chief Executive, Alan Cook. However, after an exchange of correspondence with Alan Cook and senior PO officials, the MP said that, provided the permission of the postmaster was given, he could see no good reason why rural communities should not be informed of the modest sums that PO Ltd was saving by closing their sub post office branches. Geoffrey Cox said; "It is essential that we keep up the pressure until the last moment. Decisions in the light of the consultation are being taken now, and this debate was a final opportunity to bring home the damage that many of these closures will cause to our rural communities and the strength of the case for preserving them. Local people will be dismayed at the paltry annual amounts that are to be saved by closing their post offices and shops, on which so many frail, elderly and disabled people depend to sustain their lives in isolated villages."A full transcript of the debate can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmhansrd/cm080709/halltext/80709h0010.htm