The Countryside Alliance has welcomed the opportunity to respond to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy consultation on the ‘2016 Post Office Network Consultation’. The Countryside Alliance is a campaigning organisation covering the whole of the United Kingdom and works for everyone who loves the countryside and the rural way of life. As a membership organisation with over 100,000 members, we reflect the views and concerns of a broad range of rural people and their livelihoods.
The Countryside Alliance’s key response to the consultation was that post offices in rural areas are the lifeblood of their communities. The rural post office is much more than a place to stamp and post letters – it is a vital service, providing social and cultural advantages to isolated populations across the country. The government needs to understand that the real value of a post office cannot be measured simply by turnover, and it must recognise that the benefit to the community goes far beyond the ‘doorstep’ of the post office.
We accepted the need for restructuring the network in 2007, and welcomed the government’s strategy in 2010 ‘Securing the Post Office Network in the Digital Age’ where they proposed to make the post office a genuine front office for government. However since then we have felt this ambition has not been delivered on and its revenues from government services have fallen by 40% since 2010. We need a bold and ambitious strategy which will safeguard the network, particularly in vulnerable communities such as remote rural areas and urban deprived ones. We still fully support the view that the post office network should be the front office of government and an expansion of services and freedom to operate are key to delivering a sustainable network.