Rural communities '˜must be heard in Post Office funding consultation'

CLA (Country Land and Business Association) East is calling on the Government to listen to the opinions of rural communities and act upon them when deciding the future of Post Office branches across the countryside.

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has launched a consultation on the structure of the Post Office network seeking views on the provision of branches in small and remote rural areas, the services they provide, and how communities can become more involved in their operation.

In a recent Westminster Hall debate on the subject, MPs said a commitment in 2010 to make the Post Office a genuine ‘Front Office for Government’ had failed, and called on the Government to develop a strategy to safeguard its future as a matter of urgency.

CLA East regional director Ben Underwood said: “Post Offices are at the heart of rural communities, providing essential services for the people who live there and run small businesses.

“With many banks closing and disappearing from our market towns, and reliable access to the internet still a problem in the countryside, rural communities will become even more isolated if more Post Offices are forced to close.

“It is absolutely essential the people living and working in small villages have access to a branch. As well as providing important services they are often the only retail outlet people can access locally.

“It will be incredibly damaging for the rural economy if funding for the Post Office is cut once the existing agreement between it and the Government ends in 2018.

“It is important that people take part in the consultation and have their say on the future of their Post Offices, but it is essential Government listens to them and offers genuine reassurances that these vital public services will retain their place in our rural communities in the future.”

The consultation on the future of the Post Office will close on December 21.