Secretary of State for the Department of Trade and Industry, Alistair Darling, has today announced that 2,500 post offices are to close, reducing the national total form around 14,500 to around 12,000.

Exactly which post offices will be shut is yet to be determined: in coming months local consultations are set to take place to establish which are most and least required by their customers.

?New technology and changing lifestyles and wider choice of ways of getting services mean that people are using post offices less, Mr Darling said in his statement today to the House of Commons. ?The network?s losses are now running at almost £4 million a week ? double what it was two years ago. And that will increase further unless action is taken to make the network more sustainable.

?As the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters and others have recognised, the present network is unsustainable, which is why change is needed.?

He also explained that there would be investment in an effort to reach more far-flung locations, using mobile post offices, and working in cooperation with village halls, community centres and pubs.

Some pressure groups, however, think this is the wrong way to go about dealing with the problem: ?The case for supporting, rather than shutting rural post offices is a strong one and the Government?s tinkering round the edges of their proposals clearly shows they realise this,? said Emma Marrington, Rural Policy Campaigner for the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

The CPRE says that two particularly damaging effects of the closures will be a reduction of outlets for local produce, just when the Government is encouraging an expansion of local food production and small rural businesses, and a big increase in the number of road miles caused by forcing many rural residents and those on holiday in the countryside to drive further to use post office services.

?Despite buying a bit more time for the existing network, and acknowledging the complexity of local circumstances, in the end, many post offices will close. For many rural communities and the people that visit them on holiday, life will be made more difficult and communities will be put under greater strain,? Ms Marrington added.