The Post Office network is on the brink of collapse, with thousands of branches set to close in the coming year, it has been claimed.
The National Federation of Sub-postmasters (NFSB) says 1,000 branches are currently listed as closed and warns that 2,500 are at risk over the next year in its submission to a Parliamentary committee.
On Tuesday morning (21 May), the Parliamentary Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee will be questioning witnesses from the Communication Workers Union, National Federation of Sub-Postmasters, WH Smith, Association of Convenience Stores, and Post Office about a range of issues affecting the Post Office network.
Around two-thirds of closures have been caused by the resignation of the sub-postmaster – the private business owners which run the local branches says the NFSP.
Around 1,500 of the 11,547 Post Offices in the UK are now temporary, while 3,000 are the only shop in their village or community.
The government currently provides a subsidy to help cover the operating costs of the network, which is scheduled to end in 2021.
The NFSP is calling for this subsidy continue beyond 2021 to prevent Post Offices disappearing in rural areas.
It also wants to allow Post Offices to offer a wider range of products and services to attract younger people and help "future-proof" the network.
The NFSP says: “The viability of sub Post Offices and the morale of sub-postmasters has been eroded to the extent that the network’s resilience is extremely limited.
“We believe a tipping point has been passed and the consequences of this are now being realised.
“Sub-postmasters are resigning in high numbers because it is increasingly difficult to make a decent living.”
According to the NFSP, sub-postmasters are feeling increasingly “disenfranchised”, “marginalised” and “relegated to the bottom of the food chain” by the Post Office and the government.
Three out of every four postmasters earn below the minimum wage with more than a fifth considering closing, downsizing or handing-on their Post Office in the next 12 months.
Revenue from government services paid to Post Office branches has fallen from £576 million in 2004-05 to £99 million last year.
The NFSP says the closures would be a “catastrophic” loss to communities across the UK, potentially leaving many without access to postal and banking services.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show nearly 6,000 local bank branches have closed since 2010 – a fall of nearly a third.
The number of free cash machines cash machines is also declining, with the loss of 1,700 in the first three months of the year, according to Which?.
This had led to fears that people in rural areas, especially the elderly and the disabled, could be left without access to cash.