FOUR Post Offices in Dumfriesshire will close permanently later this year, it has been confirmed.
Branches operating in SPAR stores in Thornhill, Gretna, Eastriggs and Georgetown in Dumfries will cease trading in August and September.
Initially due to take place in February, the planned shutdowns sparked a backlash from local residents and politicians who argued communities and remote villages would lose vital services if the cuts went ahead.
As a result, SPAR’s wholesaler, CJ Lang and Sons, said at the start of February that closures had been “put on hold”.
But this week the proposals resurfaced again, with CJ Lang’s CEO Colin McLean writing that it’s “not viable to continue to offer this service”.
He said that the decision had been “carefully considered” following 18 months of negotiations with the Post Office.
And Mr McLean added his company would “continue to ensure our stores serve the communities in which they are based”.
However, the move has again been condemned by elected representatives from across the political spectrum.
In a joint-statement, David and Oliver Mundell, MP and MSP for Dumfriesshire, called the news “very disappointing”.
The pair added: “We have spoken to CJ Lang, who were not able to agree a different model of operating with the Post Office in the intervening period, and it is clear that they are not going to change their mind.
“The Post Office have known for months that these closures were likely so we hope they already have contingency plans in place for alternative arrangements both in the short and medium term to make sure that the elderly and vulnerable and those who cannot easily travel, in particular, have access to the services they require. Local businesses also rely on these Post Offices and their needs must be met too.”
Meanwhile, South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said he was urging the Post Office to find an alternative “as a matter of urgency”.
Mr Smyth added: “Having a Post Office in the community is vital for so many of my constituents, particularly those who are older or people who can’t travel easily.
“These latest closures would be another blow to the region, in particular the communities in Georgetown, Gretna, Eastriggs and Thornhill, and a further cut in the number of Post Offices across Dumfries and Galloway.”
Council leader Elaine Murray said: “I am very disappointed that despite our representations, the decision has been made to continue with the closures. Post Offices are vitally important and this news will be a blow to the people living in these four communities.”
Furthermore, a motion raised by Annandale South Councillor Sean Marshall to assess the impact of closures on communities and make the case for retaining the four branches has been unanimously supported by the council.
Cllr Marshall said that Post Offices are an “intrinsic part of a community – big or small”.
Branches in Thornhill, Georgetown and Gretna will close on August 12, 19 and 23 respectively, whilst the Eastriggs branch will shut up shop on September 23.