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Post offices closing at the rate of two each week

Written by: Emma Lunn
More than 200 post offices have closed in the past two years – the equivalent of two a week, according to Citizens Advice.

The charity has published a report titled Gaps in the Network which looks at the impact of temporary closures on post office access.

The report found the Post Office is at “breaking point” in some areas, with branches closures leaving “huge gaps”, which impacts the elderly, carers and those in rural areas the most.

Citizens Advice said nearly one in five (18%) people visit a post office every week, while nearly half (45%) visit at least once a month. The government and Post Office’s publicly stated intention is for the network to be “convenient and easily accessible” to everyone. But in recent years there has been sharp increases in temporarily closed and part-time outreach post offices.

Its research found 206 post offices have closed in the past two years, the equivalent of two closing each week.

The charity’s analysis also found that 1,291 post offices in Britain were ‘temporarily closed’ in September 2021, nearly twice as many as the 662 in September 2017. They are often closed for a significant period of time – more than eight in 10 for over a year. And one in three rural post offices in Britain are now provided as part-time ‘outreaches’ with these services open for an average of only five-and-a-half hours a week.

The report said that post office closures are a particular problem in rural locations where people and small businesses rely on post office services the most. Almost one in four (23%) rural residents use a post office at least once a week. Older and disabled people, carers, and people who don’t use the internet are also disproportionately impacted.

Citizens Advice said that when post offices close, people are forced to take on the additional costs and the inconvenience of travelling further – something which can be particularly challenging in rural areas and for those who face barriers to travelling long distances. Although for some people outreaches may be better than nothing, many find the service inadequate. The report said provision is too infrequent, opening hours inconvenient, queues too long, and vital services missing.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Post offices sit at the centre of our communities. They help many small businesses thrive, stop already isolated communities being cut off entirely, and enable people to carry out essential tasks, like paying bills.

“Maintaining post office investment is crucial or the service will never keep pace with the needs of the communities it’s intended to serve.”

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