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Rural Post Offices in decline

A new report 'Gaps in the Network' by Citizens Advice has highlighted the decline of postal services in rural areas. It shows that despite 1 in 4 (23%) rural residents using a post office at least once a week compared to just 17% of urban residents, these services are under threat.

Research in the report has also shown that 1 in 3 rural post offices are now offered as part-time "outreach" services, open for an average of just 5.5 hours a week. One was open for only 10 minutes per week.
We all know that post offices are much more than a place to stamp a letter and the social value of them in rural communities goes far beyond the doorstep however, these figures are alarming and show a service at breaking point with no clear direction from the Government or Post Office Ltd on what the future holds for them.

The Countryside Alliance has long made the point that post offices must remain relevant in modern times through supporting growth in activities like online shopping through parcel collection and delivery, and to continue to pick up slack as banks and shops close in rural areas.

Post office closures harm both the sustainability and economic viability of surrounding communities. 8 in 10 small businesses in remote rural areas would lose money if local post offices were closed.

Previous research by Citizens Advice has shown us that:

  • 1 in 5 people said they would lose contact with neighbours or friends if it wasn't for their local post office;
  • 1 in 10 rural consumers buy essential items like groceries and food at post offices when they visit; and
  • Almost 3 million rural shoppers visit a post office on a weekly basis.

The post office network also offers an important means of accessing cash, either using its own financial products or because it provides access to the current accounts of 26 other banks and the business accounts of over 15 other banks.

The expansion of financial services through post offices could replace lost banking and financial services to rural communities and small businesses, ensuring the long-term viability of the network and that the post office remains at the centre of rural community life.

Nationally there are more post offices than there are bank branches (of all the banks combined). Moreover, the post office network has rural reach, since more than half of its outlets are located in rural areas and have a presence in many villages.

The Countryside Alliance would like to see the post office become a genuine front office for government at both the national and local level, including the expansion of financial services. Increasing footfall into post offices is a win-win for rural communities, increasing local services and keeping post offices open.

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