The head of a national association of town and village offices has warned the Liberal Democratic Party that privatizing postal services will cost it support in rural areas as well as the group’s backing.

Fumio Yamamoto, head of the National Association of Towns and Villages, told LDP Secretary General Makoto Koga and Shizuka Kamei, policy chief of the LDP, that postal employees provide a kind of welfare service for elderly people in rural areas by checking up on them when delivering mail, association officials said.

Yamamoto, who met LDP executives Wednesday at the party’s headquarters in Tokyo, said privatization would put an end to this informal welfare system and that elderly people would have to pay for the house visits.

The remarks by Yamamoto, who is also mayor of Soeda, Fukuoka Prefecture, reflect concerns over the shortage of workers in welfare fields and municipal-run nursing-care systems.

The Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications Ministry handles the three state-run postal services — mail and parcel delivery, postal savings and “kampo” limited life insurance coverage.

Privatization of the services has been a controversial issue, and reluctance to embrace the idea is seen as a reason why some senior LDP members are shying away from Junichiro Koizumi in the party’s coming election.

Koizumi, a former posts minister who has reportedly expressed an interest in succeeding the unpopular Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, backs privatization of all three postal services.

Heads of small post offices, mainly those outside urban areas, strongly oppose privatization. The organization of postal chiefs is believed the largest and most united support group for the LDP.

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