Rural post offices

Explains why they are important, what business support is available, how communities can help retain their post office and find out about proposed changes to the Post Office network in the East Riding.

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 the 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-postmasters.

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-postmaster who has a contract with 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 cooperate 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 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 relocated to the nearby WH Smith (39-41 Toll Gavel) store in 2019.

The proposals were subject to a six-week local consultation where Post Office Limited sought the views of customers and local stakeholders.

Following consideration of all consultation responses, Post Office Limited announced a decision to proceed with the re-location. The existing Register Square Post Office will close at 5.30pm on Wednesday 4 September and the new branch in Toll Gavel will open at 8.30am on Thursday 5 September.

Hedon Post Office

Following a period of temporary closure, the Council has been informed that Hedon Post Office is scheduled to re-open at 1pm on Thursday 10 October 2019, in new premises at 40 St. Augustine's Gate, Hedon HU12 8EX.

Nearby alternative post office branches include Preston (HU12 8UA) and Thorngumbald (HU12 9PA).

Howden Post Office

The council has been notified that Howden Post Office closed temporarily on 10 July 2019 and Post Office Limited is seeking a new franchise partner to operate post office services in the town.

Whilst the main branch is temporarily closed, a Hosted Outreach Post Officer service will operate from:

Howden Town Council offices
17 Bridgegate
DN14 7AE

with effect from 15 July 2019 until further notice, and with the following opening times:

  • Monday - 10am to 12 noon
  • Friday - 10am to 12 noon.

Nearby alternative post office branches include Goole (DN14 6AA) and Hook (DN14 5PA).

Subscribe to East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Stay updated on the latest East Riding news

We use GovDelivery to send you emails, which is secure and you can choose to stop receiving emails at any time.

Find out more in our Privacy notice.

Subscribe to East Riding News