A LOCAL post office at the heart of a community is hanging in the balance.

The Astley Bridge Post Office in Higher Blackburn Road is now on the brink of closure according to the local MP — still shuttered after an armed robbery last month.

Adding to the problems, the branch has been cutting back on services and has been operating with a temporary postmaster in recent months, it is also understood that the search for a permanent postmaster has been unsuccessful so far.

MP David Crausby said: "I have been liaising with the Post Office to make sure the branch is kept open but it's very concerning.

"They started with reducing the number of services, stopping business banking and large books of stamps, these were big sources of income for the shop. The Post Office is also trying to find someone to take it over but the temporary postmaster is already struggling to balance the books and no one wants to take it on."

The Higher Blackburn Road Post Office is the only remaining branch in Astley Bridge, after another shop closed its doors a few years ago.

A petition has been launched to keep the branch open and more than 200 concerned residents have put their name to it.

Resident Sharon Walker said: "It would be a terrible loss to our area, both myself and husband use the Higher Blackburn Road Post Office. It also is a useful place being near to home to collect travel currency, dropping off packages and on occasion collecting package. It provides a vital service to our area.

"Astley Bridge takes another hit to services in the area. We lost the bank near Asda, we lost the post office near the Oxfam Shop, we lost the post office in Sharples Avenue, we lost the Royal Bank of Scotland. When we lost the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Higher Blackburn Road Post Office took some of the banks services on.

"The post office is yet another nail in the coffin, not everybody can easily get to the alternative post offices. For all the elderly in the area who pop into the post office and other small local shops for some it will be the only time they see somebody to chat to.

A once thriving area that has been dealt another blow. Hopefully the post office issue will be resolved sooner rather than later."

The MP said: "There's still a job to be done and other post offices show that it can still be a viable business. Astley Bridge is a big shopping area outside of the town centre."

A Post Office spokesman said: “Higher Blackburn Road Post Office is temporarily closed - we apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused and thank them for their understanding while we work to reopen the branch as soon as possible.”