POST Office chiefs have launched an urgent appeal to find someone to run a rural branch set to close today.

However, residents have hit out saying the appeal would be more successful if a "reasonable" wage was offered for the position.

Gunnerside Post Office, in Swaledale, is to shut following the resignation of the sub-postmistress due to ill-health.

Post Office Limited is now seeking a sub-postmaster or mistress to run the branch.

The loss of the service comes six years after residents rallied round to open a part-time service in the village hall.

Val Stark, chairman of the Friends of Gunnerside Post Office, said: "Everybody in the village benefits from the post office, especially the elderly who don't drive.

"The problem is they're not offering a decent wage to run the service and people aren't going to work for nothing.

"It's only been opening one morning a week since the previous sub-postmistress was taken ill. We would be quite happy with that."

North Yorkshire county councillor for Swaledale, John Blackie added: "They're offering a paltry salary that simply isn't going to attract people.

"The post office covers a huge area and if we lose it, it will be another nail in the coffin of rural communities."

Ray Jefferson, rural transfer adviser for Post Office, said: "Providing post office services to our customers in the Gunnerside community is extremely important to us and we will do everything we can to re-open a branch as soon as possible.

"We are sorry for the inconvenience this temporary closure may cause and hope that customers will use other local branches for the time being."

Anyone interested in the vacancy can contact the Post Office's agency recruitment department on (0845) 6016260.

Customers are requested to use the branches in Low Row, Reeth or Muker until the service can be restored.

Muker Post Office opens Monday to Friday 9am to 1pm, Reeth Post Office is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Saturday 9am to 12.30pm and the Low Row branch is open Tuesday from 9am to 4pm, Wednesday 9am to 3pm and Thursday 9am to 2pm.