Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Please serve yourself: rural post offices The Commission for Rural Communities has quick-published four case studies of the improvised provision of post office services in rural areas. The document is uncontaminated by such things as an analytical summary to draw out the issues and put them in policy context, or an account of how they were compiled, but, ah, the CRC occupies .gov space, maybe that's the explanation. Anyway this is straightforward unglossed case study material. I was struck by this account: The post office in Tealby closed some years ago but post office services had been maintained in private houses and then in the small entrance lobby to the village hall. With only a year to run on its permission to operate from the hall the threat of losing post office services was looming... A store-room adjacent to the village hall was re-built as a dedicated facility, with village shop, post office services and doctor’s surgery once a week. A number of postmasters have run the post office since its opening in June 2004. The Centre has a part-time employed manager who organises a rota of 22 volunteers to run the shop. In private houses? Twenty-two volunteers? Tealby is in Lincolnshire, it's not a big place. Some small towns and large urban housing estates struggle to get that many volunteers together for worthy causes or in time of crisis, let alone on a regular basis. We're talking about an acute and demonstrable social need here, people are motivated about it. In the light of that, the account doesn't exactly amount to a complimentary depiction of service provision in an advanced economy. It's an interesting example of collective effort, which raises familiar questions about how we prioritise investment in essential local services. All credit to the county, district and parish councils which all contributed funding. Now where's the sustainability? My last post, to coin a phrase, on this theme was here.

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