WITH the Government set to launch its public consultation on the future of the rural Post Office network this Autumn a number of people from our region with an interest in the network have had an early chance to say what issues they want covering by the consultation.
Shap residents shape Post Office debate
The Commission for Rural Communities launched one of two focus groups in Shap earlier this year with the aim of gaining insight into how rural communities wished to put forward their views to the Government's public consultation.
Participants were drawn from a range of post office users and also included representatives from parish councils, local and district councils, subpostmasters, rural community councils, voluntary and community organisations, Postwatch, Post Office Limited, and representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and rural affairs department Defra.
The results coming from the focus group were not surprising; Post offices were seen by the majority of participants as vital components of a vibrant rural economy, with a role as a community hub and a provider of services.
Banking services and access to cash through post offices were seen as essential.
The social and community role was also seen as an important component of the argument to maintain rural post offices. Local input into future planning was also considered essential to reflect the different needs of communities, especially those of older people.
As far as consultation about the future of the network was concerned, participants felt strongly that their voices should be heard, with involvement at the early stages of planning before decisions that would affect them became irreversible.
The Commission believes that a range of consultation approaches should be used, including questionnaires, interviews, and local workshops to ensure that all members of the community could be involved.