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Economy Economy

Protect existing rural Post Office services

Last updated: 10:28am 1 October 2019

We will safeguard the post office network, to protect existing rural services 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. This policy, “protecting” rural services, focuses on maintaining the number of post offices accessible to people in rural areas.

The most significant action under this government has been the announcement in December 2017 of a funding package for the Post Office, including £160 million to protect branches in rural areas.

There are six post office access criteria set by government which include:

“95% of the population of every postcode district to be within six miles of their nearest post office outlet”

At end of March 2018, five of the criteria were met, but this one was missed – the one specifically designed to ensure access for people in rural areas.

It’s also worth noting that a Citizens Advice report in July 2017 criticised the way distance is measured for access criteria. The criteria use “as the crow flies” measurements. Citizens Advice found that:

“Whereas over 9 in 10 people (93%) live within one mile of a post office as the ‘crow flies’, eight out of ten people (80%) are within one mile by road.”

In other words, using “by road” measurements would worsen performance against the criteria.

The Post Office Network Report 2018 showed a slight decline in the number of rural post offices, but the figure is relatively stable. However, in evidence to a select committee inquiry in September 2019, the National Federation of SubPostmasters said:

“22% of subpostmasters are considering closing or downsizing their post office in the coming year…”

Government has invested, but concerns about closures,  failure to meet its own access criteria, and disagreement about the nature of those criteria, mean this can only be considered ‘in progress’. We await the next Network Report to see if post office access levels have been maintained. Follow this policy for updates.

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There's always room for debate

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