Devon could challenge Government to do more to safeguard future of post offices

Post offices in Devon are facing increased financial pressure and need more support from the Government. That is the view of Devon County Council’s Cabinet.

It wants the full council to call on the Government to do more to help post offices in rural and coastal communities.

Members of the committee talked about pressures facing post offices across the county at a meeting today (September 11) and agreed to recommend a series of actions to the full council, which next meets on October 3.

If the council supports the recommendations, the council will write to the Government asking for a guarantee over the future of post offices across Devon.

The authority will call for ‘proper funding’ of post offices in rural and coastal communities and better support for the development of community hub models, which aim to combine post offices with other local services to better meet local needs.

Councillors want the Government to develop a new strategy with business leaders and industry experts to make post offices more sustainable, rather than continuing with the current programme of closures and franchising of Crown offices.

They also want the Government to provide additional commercial support, considered to be of critical importance to community life and recognise that the service is at the heart of many remote communities.

The Government would be encouraged to develop and diversify the services currently offered by post offices.

Key services to be mapped

To support this, the council will map key services in Devon, including post offices and banks, in order to identify communities that lack adequate banking facilities and those that are further than six miles from a post office branch. It will also support links for organisations that wish to develop networks, particularly in the areas that lack physical banking facilities.

Councillor Rob Hannaford, Leader of the council’s Labour Group, put forward the notice of motion to the Cabinet. He said: “Britain’s 11,500 existing post offices are facing increasing financial pressure, especially given the rise in popularity of online services.

“With Government funding set to drop to just £50 million by 2020/21 there is a need for measures to be taken to ensure the future of the post office network.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities said: “It is important to recognise that post offices often form the heart of our rural communities, and that further funding is required to adequately maintain services.

Understanding current needs

“Not only will we call on the Government to increase commercial support, but we want to work alongside community groups across the county to better understand current needs.

“This will create valuable opportunities to share information and enable communities and support groups to better help themselves.

“We are keen to use all opportunities to join our partners in conversations with residents on how we can continue to develop strong and sustainable community assets across Devon.”

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