HALTON'S remaining post offices could be on the Government hitlist after it was announced 2,500 branches are to close.
Mounting losses and fewer people using the network of 14,263 offices were blamed for the cutbacks.
The post office network is losing £4m a week, up from £2m last year.
Halton has seen its number of post offices steadily decrease. Widnes residents are already feeling the effects after the Ditton branch and Albert Road post offices were closed last year, which left the town with a dozen branches. There are only eight in Runcorn.
Punters in Widnes are unhappy with the situation, saying the Post Office has closed down 'crucial rural branches'.
Peter Miller, from Widnes, says his elderly mother has had to trek more than a mile to post letters at Widnes's main post office in Albert Square as a result of the office on Peelhouse Lane folding.
He said: 'She used to nip down to her local post office just down the road but now that's not possible and it's the same for a lot of pensioners around here.
'If the Government closes any more down here then it would have serious consequences.'
Other rural post offices such as Hough Green, Birchfield and Cronton could be under threat.
Another shopper said she would miss the 'general chat' and 'warm welcome' of her post office if that was to go under. She added: 'I have been going to Cronton Post Office for years and it is nice to do the jobs you need to do and get a warm welcome from staff.
'The post office is the heart of the community and we do not want any more going around here.'
The Government has unveiled an investment package worth up to £1.7bil-lion for the Post Office.
Despite estimated losses of 2,500 branches, the Post Office will open at least 500 outlets to provide access to services for small remote communities, using mobile post offices and hosting post offices in other businesses such as pubs, community centres and village halls.
The strategy was announced by Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling last week.
He stressed that, with ongoing Government support and some rationalisation, the national network could be maintained for the long term, particularly protecting vulnerable communities.
Mr Darling said: 'Post offices face a long-term challenge: The internet, e-mail and text-messaging have meant that people, young and old alike, increasingly use the phone or internet banking, cash point machines or direct debits to pay their bills.
'Our strategy aims to protect the national network, equipping to meet the challenge of today.'
Government is 'missing the point'
THE Post Office watchdog has reacted angrily to the news and says the closure of any post office is a loss to the customers and community involved.
But it recognises that the current situation cannot continue.
Postwatch says that to let the current 'drip-drip' of unplanned closures continue would be irresponsible and would undoubtedly lead to some areas losing access to post office services.
For more than a year, Postwatch has been urging the Government to propose a sustainable way of meeting customers' post office needs.
Judith Donovan, chair of Postwatch North, said: 'Today's announcement and consultation are the first steps in providing a clear view on how the Post Office network will look in the future.
'We have consistently urged the Government to provide that clarity and are
pleased we now at least have proposals to work on.
'This is not a simple numbers game of how many post office buildings are to close. The focus should be on ensuring customers have access to post office services.
'For example, if a number of expensive-to-run, seldom-used post offices can be replaced with a cost-effective mobile service that meets the needs of communities, doesn't that make sense?
'We will need time to study the proposals to consider how they will work in practice. We are pleased to see the Government recognises the social and economic role of the post office network but are disappointed that there is no further information on how the social role will be taken into account.'
The Countryside Alliance also hit out at the Government for 'missing the point'.
Simon Hart, Countryside Alliance chief executive, said: 'The Government obviously thinks that there is no such thing as community and has completely missed the point. The social value of the Post Office network cannot be measured in financial terms.
'The rural sub-Post Office network has become uneconomic exactly because of the policies of this Government.
'It should be looking at how to increase viability while maintaining the social lifeline the network provides to thousands of communities.
'These plans give us a glimpse of a chilling future where broadband takes over from human interaction and communities become service-free dormitories with no heart.
'A mobile Post Office can never be the centre of village life. '