MPs press Government to secure future of rural post offices
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has called on the Government to take action to secure the future of rural post offices.
Mr Herbert, who is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services, is supporting a recent submission by the Group to the Department of Trade and Industry's consultation on the future of the post office network.
The consultation, which closed on 8 March, follows the Government's announcement in December last year that it plans to close nearly one fifth of the existing post office network. This would follow the closure of more than 4,000 post offices nationwide since 1999, including two in the Arundel & South Downs constituency.
A Government response to the consultation, in which it is expected to outline its plans in more detail, is expected before Easter.
The All-Party Group has written to the DTI to call on the Government to take a more joined up approach to the future of the network, to consider expanding the range of services provided at post offices and to pursue a strategy to increase the number of customers at rural post offices.
The MPs believe that the Government could help secure the future of the post office network by:
removing barriers to expanding revenue sources;
- empowering post offices to offer local authority services;
- requiring each government department and agency to consider whether any of its services to the public could be provided through the post office network;
- improving access to cash by encouraging the Post Office to locate ATMs in rural branches;
- helping the Post Office to become more economically viable by enabling it to reach commercial agreements for bill payment contracts, and
- requiring the successful bidder for the next National Lottery licence to offer those post offices in rural areas which are in receipt of government support the opportunity to install a National Lottery terminal.
Nick Herbert has repeatedly emphasised the importance of rural post offices to West Sussex's rural communities, where they are often at the heart of village life and where they provide a valuable service not only to the elderly and those who may not have access to their own transport but to the community as a whole.
Commenting on the Group's submission, Mr Herbert said: "I hope that the Government will pay attention to the views of the All-Party Parliamentary Group.
"I believe that post offices should be able to offer a greater range of products and services.
"Post offices perform a public service, especially in rural areas, and we need to find innovative ways to protect them."