A co-ordinated campaign and a speech in Parliament by MP Derek Thomas has led to some welcome positive news for people who use West Cornwall’s rural post office services.
Post Offices Minister Kelly Tolhurst MP announced in Parliament that there would be an extension of the mobile post office service in West Cornwall to include Heamoor, Gulval, Carbis Bay, Leedstown, Praa Sands and Crowntown and also pledged that greater efforts would be made to ensure rural sub-postmasters have a viable business.
With ten post offices in his West Cornwall constituency either closed, or at risk of closure, Mr Thomas has spearheaded the Save Our Post Offices campaign in recent months, contacting 10,000 people in the constituency and receiving more than 1,700 responses.
The campaign makes three key demands of Government and Post Office Ltd, namely that they make sure sub-postmasters have a viable business, force banks to pay sub-postmasters a fair price for their services, and increase services available to rural post office branches.
As well as presenting the petition to Government, Mr Thomas has met regularly with Ministers to highlight the issues surrounding post offices in West Cornwall and, on 13 December secured a debate in the House of Commons.
In the debate, he told the Post Offices Minister “We must do more to secure the future of these rural post offices, and to do that we need to enjoy the confidence of sub-postmasters and the businesses that could consider hosting a post office counter in their outlet.
“I believe that large numbers of sub-postmasters have lost confidence in Post Office Ltd, and for businesses considering taking on a post office service within their current establishment, the word is out that it is not a viable business and they would do well to leave well alone.
“It is vital that we secure the future of the rural post office network which is integral to rural communities …. providing banking and post office services to constituents who would otherwise be unable to access them.”
Responding, the Post Offices Minster said that Mr Thomas was a “passionate advocate for post office services in his constituency” and agreed that the West Cornwall campaign and the work that Mr Thomas had done to highlight the issues had played an important part in Post Office Ltd agreeing to the extension of mobile services.
She also said that more would be done to ensure that rural sub-postmasters have a viable business and, to this end, Paula Vennells, the Post Office’s chief executive officer, will be visiting West Cornwall in the New Year.
She added: “The Post Office has recently notified postmasters that their rates for banking deposits have been increased this year.
“I understand that the Post Office has now entered negotiations with banks on the next banking service agreement. The Post Office has reassured me that it will do all it can to ensure that postmasters are better remunerated for the vital services that they offer.”
Mr Thomas welcomed the Post Office Minister’s comments and said they were a positive step in ensuring that West Cornwall has the post office services it deserves.
“It was encouraging that the Minister recognises the value and importance of rural post offices and made commitments to ensure that they thrive and remain at the heart of our rural communities,” he said.