Those behind the public relations campaign to prevent the closure of post offices should continue in the face of the government’s confirmation that 2,500 post offices will be lost in the next 18 months.
On the one hand, the closures are far fewer than had been predicted (so a successful campaign?), but I’m not sure the debate about the value of thriving local communities has totally been won. The post office should be at the heart of reinvigorating villages and neglected urban neighbourhoods – and more services should be encouraged to be offered via this central hub. Rather than moving post offices into supermarkets (as is the case in Waitrose in Salisbury), there should be a philosophy of encouraging the social benefits that come from a good post office.
The post office is a great place of communications – not as Royal Mail marketers, but where vital government and other social information could be discussed. It can act as a barometer on concerns if used for two-way communications – and also provides comfort and recognition of, particularly the elderly, who may have little other contact.
I welcome the idea of mobile post offices as part of the solution and it is good to see requirements for 90% of the population to be within one mile of a branch. However, they state in rural areas, 95% of the population should be within three miles, with that distance doubling to six miles in remote areas. I’m not sure what the definition of rural and remote is – but 3-6 miles is a heck of a distance for many people – especially when public transport is minimal and we’re increasingly being discouraged from driving.