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Fears voiced for future of rural branches amid moves to ‘phase out Post Office card accounts’

Justin McNulty says small rural shops housing Post Offices could also be under threat if one of the key reasons to visit is removed

Fears have been expressed that more rural branches will face the axe after moves to phase out the Post Office card account service.

And Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has agreed to investigate the matter.

One local MLA says the card account service is on the way out as the Post Office is encouraging people to “move to high street banks for their pensions and benefits”.

The SDLP’s Justin McNulty believes this is entirely wrong and will do more damage to local communities, particularly those in rural areas.

The Newry and Armagh Assemblyman said: “Post Offices are often the last remaining public service in small towns, villages and rural areas and they are a vital community hub and resource.

“I believe this will have a detrimental impact on our Post Office network and it will hit the small and rural Post Offices the hardest.

“For many people the trip to the Post Office is a weekly outing to collect the pension or benefit.

“Many of our Post Offices are in small rural shops and have a business built around them. When in for the benefit then the customers often pick up other daily essentials.

“If we now take away the need to use the Post Office for benefits this puts the small rural shop under threat.

“Whilst I appreciate you can use other banking services at the Post Office, I fear it will only be a matter of time before they too face the chop.

“I raised these issues with Minister Hargey this week and I am pleased she has committed to investigating the issue.

“Small Post Offices serving rural communities must be protected and I hope the Minister will do all in her power to help in this regard.”

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