Protect your Post Office
WITH more and more support being pledged towards the Hunts Post s Protect Your Post Office Campaign, ANDREW McGILL discovered exactly what it takes to work behind the counter when he spent an afternoon in a rural post office. FOR town-dwellers, popping t
WITH more and more support being pledged towards the Hunts Post's Protect Your Post Office Campaign, ANDREW McGILL discovered exactly what it takes to work behind the counter when he spent an afternoon in a rural post office.
FOR town-dwellers, popping to the post office is simply a matter of heading to the centre, possibly either side of a visit to the supermarket.
In rural communities, post offices take on much more significance. They are not just a place to buy stamps, but a vital lifeline in the community.
The first thing you notice in the post office is the familiarity between the customer and the postmaster. A cheery 'hello' marks the bond between the locals, who see the postmaster as their face of the post office.
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In a town centre office there can be as many as four or five staff behind the windows, giving a production-line feel to conducting your business.
"The importance of the local postmaster cannot be underestimated," said post office customer Alan Denison, from Little Paxton. "It is not just the day-to-day services carried out at the post office but the fact that the staff will go the extra mile to help their customers and get involved with the community."
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Behind the counter, all the tools needed to work day-to-day in the post office are there - the big book of stamps, the scales and the seemingly hundreds of pigeon holes with forms of all shapes and sizes.
As the customers arrive there is time for a chat as the business is conducted. But it is when the customers arrive in dribs and drabs, the quiet periods, that the underlying problem with rural post offices, are very much in evidence - their under-use.
By encouraging the online sale of television and driving licenses, along with direct payment of pensions, some argue the Government is slowly taking away that vital sense of community - and removing rural economy.
A spokesman for Postwatch, the industry watchdog, said: "Unfortunately, it is a fact that one in five rural post offices has fewer than 70 customers each week, and 90 per cent fail to make a profit. However, it is crucial that post office services remain accessible for all users and the Government must recognise this when drawing up its proposed closures."
As reported in The Hunts Post earlier this year, closing village post offices can have a profound effect on the community, as evidenced by Wistow and Ellington, among others.
Post office user Alison Brace, from Earith, added: "Rural post offices are so vital to the community because they are usually situated in the village shop. With everything under one roof it makes the lives of everyone in the village, particularly the elderly, so much easier."
The Government is seeking to close thousands of post offices nationally because they are losing money. The Hunts Post believes the Government should not be making its decisions purely on cost-effectiveness, but should also take account community need.
Our campaign aims to stress this point to the Government and encourage more use of post offices before they fall under review in the summer.