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Economy Economy

Extend Post Office business and banking services in rural areas

Last updated: 01:40pm 11 December 2019

…and work with the Post Office to extend the availability of business and banking services to families and small businesses in rural areas.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.26

Our verdict

The Post Office is a government-owned company which manages the network of post offices across the country. According to a 2017 study by Citizens Advice, rural consumers and businesses use post offices more often and for more functions than their urban counterparts, banking in particular. 71% of rural small businesses reported that their costs would rise without a local post office. This policy promises to extend the availability of Post Office business and banking services to families and small businesses in rural areas.

In October 2018, the government introduced the Banking and Post Office Services (Rural Areas and Small Communities) Bill, to make provisions about the accessibility of services in rural post offices. The bill was, however, withdrawn in March 2019 having made no progress. The Post Office Network Report 2018 revealed that while the overall number of branches had remained stable there had been small shifts in favour of urban areas.

In June 2019, in a written statement to the House of Commons, Kelly Tolhurst, Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said:

“Post Office Limited has opened over 400 branches since April 2017 and the Government are committed to ensuring the long-term sustainability and resilience of the network. We not only place a contractual commitment on Post Office Limited to maintain a network of 11,500 branches, but also stipulate stringent access criteria to ensure that this large network is accessible to citizens across the country.”

We have ambiguous evidence on this policy. The government continues to subsidise the post office network and indicated its intention to improve services in rural areas with the Banking and Post Offices Services Bill. However, the bill never became law, and the Post Office Network Report revealed small shifts in favour of urban office locations.

New post offices have opened and there has been a statement of commitment, but that is counterbalanced by a withdrawn piece of legislation which would have directly addressed the objective of this pledge. This policy remains ‘in progress’.

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