RESIDENTS in a County Durham village could face a drastic reduction in Post Office services following the closure of the local branch.

Members of Etherley Parish Council were told no Post Office services were currently available after the village store in which the local branch was based closed at the end of January.

At their February meeting, parish council clerk Alison Overfield told members she had contacted Post Office Ltd about the situation and was told various options were under investigation.

“I was told future provision will reflect customer numbers and usage,” she said.

Mrs Overfield said this could mean anything from an outreach service or the visit of a mobile Post Office van to establishing a new Post Office Local service to run alongside a shop in newly refurbished premises.

In the discussion that followed, members said that with no shop in the village, there were now no suitable premises in which to establish a new service.

The meeting was told establishing the service in nearby Toft Hill had been discounted because its branch had been shut as part of the nationwide Post Office closure programme.

Chairman Peter Ray said the only place he could think of to site a mobile service was the Dog and Gun pub car park.

“The only other thing that springs to mind is the cricket club. That is the only other space I can think of,” he said.

However, because the cricket club is hidden from public view, the meeting was told it was unlikely the Post Office would agree to a member of staff working on their own in such a location.

Councillor Paul Ryman said the Post Office was vital to the village.

“The Post Office is a business, but it is also a public service as well,” he said.

Also present at the meeting was Margaret McCombie, who lives in Toft Hill and runs both the Tow Law Post Office and a mobile service covering nine nearby villages without their own branch.

She said the mobile timetable could be adjusted to include four visits to Etherley for a total of two hours a week.

“I can't see anyone taking it on, but I can't do anything until the Post Office say so,” she said.

The parish council has also been contacted by MP Helen Goodman's office asking how the Post Office closure would impact the village. Members noted the current situation and Coun Ray said the parish council would continue to press for Post Office services to be reinstated.

A Post Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to maintaining services at High Etherley.

“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused, however, we are working hard to restore services as quickly as possible.”