THE Government's insistence on encouraging people to switch benefits payments to their bank accounts sounded the death knell for many of our smaller post offices.

Deprived of a large volume of their trade, branches were no longer viable.

The Government's response to these warnings was to press ahead regardless with the reforms. The promises to cushion post offices from the impact either never materialised or were insufficient.

Yesterday's confirmation of a new round of closures represent our worst fears. They demonstrate that it is not only rural post offices which are under threat. Those in urban areas are also at risk.

In many of our local communities, post offices are the only retail outlet, offering general shopping facilities as well as postal services.

But without a buoyant demand for post office services, the retail arms of the business are often not viable.

Post office closures are depriving communities of their local shop.

The trend to concentrate shopping in town and city centres or out-of-town outlets is already pronounced. The Government is unwittingly exacerbating the problem.

Ministers can no longer sit back and simply blame post office closures on market forces. They have rigged the market.

It is unrealistic for them to reverse the trend of making payments into bank accounts. But they should examine the introduction of increased business rate relief and other concessions which can make the difference between post offices staying open or closing down.

It would be a worthwhile subsidy to preserve the viability and well-being of local communities.