The Plunkett foundation in conjunction with citizens advice have been very focused in encouraging governmental support for our Post Offices, especially those PO’s situated in rural ares. 74% of rural PO’s operate in a community that is without a bank. A fallout from Covid-19 is the continual exit of bank branches from the High Street.

Citizens advice has recently conducted the most comprehensive research ever into PO banking. This research confirms that for many customers PO banking is the only option open to them. When PO services were standardised prior to 2017 the provision of high street banking services was patchy, However the banking framework agreement between the PO and banking industry now enables 99% of UK personal banking customers and 95% of business banking customers to access services at their local PO. This service is provided mainly on an everyday banking basis, including services; cash withdrawals, balance checking, cheque and cash deposits. Part of this research revealed that 70% of postmasters stated that pay rates for banking do not cover the costs of providing the service, this is certainly true for our own PO.

An interesting statistic to come out of this research is that although many of us are happy to use online banking, 90% of the UK population uses a bank branch at some point. It is also apparent that vulnerable groups are most likely to use PO services weekly. Our village PO makes a commission based purely on the number of transactions (every balance check or stamp sold makes us money!). If we can all continue to use this vital service, coupled with support from groups such as Plunkett and citizens advice, who put pressure on the government to ensure the survival of rural services then hopefully we can continue to provide this service for many years to come.

Jo O’Dell vice-chair.