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Rural post offices

Explains why they are important, what business support is available, help retaining your local post office and can your community take over.

Why are rural post offices important?

Rural post offices are important because people regard them as part of the fabric of community life. Rural post offices provide over 170 different services ranging from stamps to foreign exchange to mobile telephone provision. They provide an important information hub within the community and are often combined with local shops.

Rural post offices currently face increased competition from other service providers and the growth of the internet.  Many people now make purchases online or pay for services traditionally provided by the post office by direct debit. e.g. car tax and television licences. This can place individuals who do not have access to bank accounts or the internet at a disadvantage resulting in greater isolation in rural communities.

The legislation places an obligation on Post Office Limited to maintain a national network of retail outlets for its services and gives specific maximum distances that individuals have to travel in an area in order to access a post office. In most rural areas this limit is three miles and in very sparse rural areas the limit is five miles. It should be noted that this does not mean that the provision has to be open every day and in some instances, rural post offices operate for just a few hours each week.

You can locate a post office by entering your postcode into the branch finder on Post Office website.

Post Office - branch finder (external website)

What business support is available to my local post office?

The main source of business support available to my local post office is from Post Office Limited through regional business advisors responsible for providing support to sub-post masters.

Rural post offices are small independent businesses that are part of the wider national network operated by Post Office Limited. Each individual rural post office is operated by a sub post master who has a contract with the Post Office Limited which details opening hours, the range of products and the amount the sub-postmaster will receive for delivering the service.

The association of sub-postmasters provides support to its members enabling them to come together and co-operate to maximise business opportunities.

Further information about how Post Office Limited can support your business can be found on their website.

Post Office - business (external website)

The council's business services team has a number of advisors who are able to offer support and advice to businesses across the East Riding and who will be able to help with the retail shop within a rural post office. 

What can be done to help retain my local post office?

The best way to help retain a local post office is to make use of it by purchasing its goods and services.

Many post office products can now be bought online or through other retail outlets which undermine the business viability of small rural post offices. This can result in a loss of important service provision for those individuals within the community who are unable to access the internet or travel to larger conurbations.

When a rural post office closes there is a legal duty placed on Post Office Limited to try and find a replacement sub-postmaster and or location for the service to operate. However, in this situation, Post Office Limited has the opportunity to review the previous provision which can result in a reduction in the number of hours of operation on the business or the way in which it operates. 

There are currently four business models for rural post office service provision:

  • rural post office - whereby a sub-postmaster runs a post office from their own premises. This can be combined with another business

  • hosted service - whereby a business provides a limited range of post office service within another business i.e. public house

  • outreach service - whereby a sub-postmaster comes to premises within the community for a limited number of hours per week to provide the services

  • mobile service - whereby premises are unavailable and sub-postmaster travel to a community in a specialist mobile vehicle which parked and linked to the post office computer system via a telegraph pole.

Post Office Limited has introduced a Modernisation Programme which they hope will help maximise the range of services and opening hours for customers.  This programme includes investment in the refurbishment of premises to create a more open counter system, sharing premises with other businesses, such as local village stores, supermarkets, and other retail outlets. Where a change of this type is proposed a public consultation in the area takes place.

Could my community take over my local post office?

Not directly, the contract between Post Office Limited and a sub-postmaster is a contract between a company and an individual.

However, a number of communities across the country have already successfully taken over their local shop when it became threatened with closure and/or
available on the market. Where this happens the provision of a rural post office can be incorporated into the business plan for the shop. It should be noted that Post Office Limited generally enters into negotiations about such arrangements where an existing rural post office has closed and they are looking for an alternative way in which to provide the service. It is unlikely that Post Office Limited would seek to open additional rural post offices

If your community is interested in exploring community ownership or management further, please contact a customer service centre who will put you through to the appropriate team who will provide you with further information.

Find your nearest customer service centre.

What current changes are proposed to the post office network in the East Riding?

The council has been notified of the following changes and proposed changes:

Beverley Post Office (Register Square)

In October 2018, Post Office Limited announced proposals for the Beverley Post Office at Register Square to be franchised and re-located to a nearby WH Smith store in 2019. There is currently no confirmed date for the move, but the proposals will be subject to a six-week local consultation where Post Office Limited will seek the views of customers and local stakeholders. The consultation is not currently open but details of the forthcoming consultation process will be posted here when available from Post Office Limited.

Hedon Post Office 

Hedon Post Office closed on a temporary basis in April 2018. Nearby alternative post office branches include Preston (HU12 8UA) and Thorngumbald (HU12 9PA). Post Office Limited is currently seeking a new franchise partner to operate the Hedon branch and further information regarding the re-opening of post office services in the town will be posted here when available.