Devon scheme to save rural post offices praised

Post Office

Posted on: 24 January 2012

A Devon County council project which secured the future of 16 post offices in rural parts of the county has been praised in a Government report called ‘Devon knows’ by the consumer champion group ‘Consumer Focus’.

In May 2007, a range of measures were introduced to modernise and re-shape the Post Office network. This resulted in the closure of 41 branches in Devon.

People in rural communities expressed concern about losing their local post office which not only provided an essential business function but also served as a focal point and social hub.

There were also fears in areas poorly served by public transport links that the closure of their local post office would badly affect older and more vulnerable members of the community.

In light of this, in September 2008, the Executive (now Cabinet) agreed a short term 3 year support strategy for Post Offices including a £450,000 investment package

The scheme worked by providing £5,000 each year for up to 3 years to 16 post offices which were also providing a post office outreach service. Specialist retail consultancy support was provided by the Rural Shops Alliance and further advice and support was given by the Community Council of Devon. This additional support was valued at around £4,500 per business.

In July 2010, it was agreed to continue the programme for another 2 years and at a tapered level for the 16 businesses; £2,500 each for 2011/12 and £1,500 each for 2012/13.

The report highlights the scheme and praises the approach of the council; ‘Of the 16 locations that received direct financial support, the majority were typically the last shops in the village, meaning that retail, as well as post office services, have been preserved. The scheme also boasts long-term objectives, to diversify and secure the long-term financial footing of the businesses. Even during the current challenging period for local authorities, the scheme has inherent transferability, and can clearly deliver wider social and community cohesion objectives’ .

Devon County Council’s cabinet member for Environment and Communities, Councillor Roger Croad says; “Devon is a rural county which means services such as a local post office so important to communities. I am pleased that we are continuing to support this programme which is helping to maintain post offices in many parts of the county. Of course, some establishments have fared better than others but given that we are living through a recession, it is more important than ever to offer a life line to rural areas.

The villages receiving support are;  Ashwater, Bishops Nympton, Blackawton, Bridestowe, Bridgerule, Cheriton Fitzpaine, Dittisham, Kennerleigh, Lustleigh, Milton Abbot, Newton St Cyres, Plymtree, Postbridge, St Giles on the Heath and Widecombe in the Moor.

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