As some of you will already be aware, following discussion with David Nimmo-Smith, it is suggested we meet to discuss the post office issue. Before we meet I want to set out the situation with regard to Nettlebed Post Office as I see it. I do appreciate how important this Post Office is to you and have been in regular touch with the PO since the Network Transformation Programme began.
Let me start by reminding you that the Government is very committed to rural Post Offices. Perhaps you missed the investment of £370 million announced just before Christmas.
I have challenged the PO on many occasions over particular issues in the constituency including Nettlebed Post Office. Change always brings its challenges and on the whole, the Network Transformation Programme that PO Ltd embarked on seems to have been successful. It is good to see that at last the business has turned around to make a profit after many years in the red. And that post offices are open longer hours as a result of tying them into existing businesses. This provides benefit to communities.
The problem though is that the people running the post offices have decided they no longer want to do so. It has not been for want of trying to find new people or new opportunities. If no one wants to run a post office the only other option for Post Office Ltd is the mobile service.
It is a shame that some of the branches that have or are closing are located near to one another, but on the other hand that possibly makes the mobile option more viable. Each has its unique circumstances and reasons for closure.
To counter the negative view that the local examples are giving let me give you some examples of success in similar communities in the constituency.
- In Clifton Hampden the Post Office was in the village shop. I worked with the postmaster to convince PO Ltd that it was ‘the last shop in the village’ (as opposed to considering the fuel station on the main road outside of the village) This meant that there was additional support to keep the post office up and running and has supported the community shop.
- In Wheatley the Post Office was in a small shop (a converted front room) a little way from the main parade of shops. The Postmaster used the Transformation Programme as an opportunity to take a lease on a vacant former bank in the centre and not only has retained the post office and sorting depot but has also opened an excellent shop.
- In Horspath where the Postmaster resigned but kept the village shop open, the community worked to have an ‘outreach service’ once a week set up in their Community Hub. It brings people in to their Friday coffee morning as well and has created a good social opportunity. I supported this with representations to Post Office.
These are three very different models, all working well. I would very much like to see such successes coming forward in other communities, but, as I say, no one can be forced to run a post office.
If you want a summary of what has been going on with the Post Office in recent years I think you will find the Wikipedia entry a good place to start. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post_Office_Ltd
I remain in touch with the Post Office on the situation in Nettlebed and I know that they are working to get a service provided as soon as possible.
I hope this helps explain the situation and is encouraging in the Government support for this important services.
With best wishes