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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 04/03/2008
Appendix F - Post Office Closures



Summary & Purpose
This report sets out details of Post Office Ltd’s proposals to close two Post Offices in Waverley; actions taken by the Borough Council to date; and issues that should be included in the Council’s response to the consultation.

APPENDIX F
Waverley Borough Council

EXECUTIVE - 4TH MARCH 2008

Title:

POST OFFICE CLOSURES

[Portfolio Holder for Partnerships and Community: Cllr D J Munro]
[Wards Affected: Farnham and Tilford]
(but could impact on other areas)]
Summary and purpose:

This report sets out details of Post Office Ltd’s proposals to close two Post Offices in Waverley; actions taken by the Borough Council to date; and issues that should be included in the Council’s response to the consultation.

Environmental implications:

The proposed closures would result in additional journeys for those who no longer have access to a local post office.

Social / community implications:

Those people living in the vicinity of the proposed closures, particularly the most elderly would no longer have the freedom to walk to their local post office. In the case of Farnham, accessing an alternative post office would mean a difficult crossing at the A31. The closure at Tilford has no realistic alternative post office by foot. In addition the proposed closure could have an impact on the viability of the village shop which has just been given planning permission to expand.

E-Government implications:

There are no e-government implications arising from this report.

Equality and diversity implications

Some residents particularly the most vulnerable and elderly residents will be disproportionately affected by the proposed changes. In addition, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community is located within Tilford.

Introduction

1. Fewer people are using Post Office branches, partly because traditional services, including benefit payments and other services are now available through other means, such as online or directly through banks. The Government has charged Post Office Ltd with closing up to 2,500 post offices throughout the UK. Sub-postmasters will be compensated and in more remote rural areas some alternative means of outreach services will be introduced.
2. Post Office Ltd's programme will involve an average of four closures in every parliamentary constituency, with all closures taking place in 2008. The programme involves grouping closure proposals by 'area plans'. There will be 46 such plans, each comprising a number of parliamentary constituencies and subject to the six week public consultation determined by Government.

3. Following the closure programme, the government expects the post office network to provide a robust service for the foreseeable future and require that across the country:

99% of the UK population to be within 3 miles and 90% of the population to be within 1 mile of their Post Office outlet
99% of the total population in deprived urban areas across the UK to be within 1 mile of their nearest Post Office outlet
95% of the total urban population across the UK to be within 1 mile of their nearest Post Office outlet
95% of the total rural population across the UK to be within 3 miles of their nearest Post Office outlet 95% of the population of the postcode district to be within 6 miles of their nearest Post Office outlet

4. Waverley forms part of the Surrey, Berkshire, West Sussex and Area Plan. Proposals which were published on 29th January 2008. The six week consultation period closes on 10 March 2008. The area plan will be available on the Post Office website and a links to the relevant documents have been created on the Waverley website for ease of reference at www.waverley.gov.uk/business/postofficeclosures.asp.

5. Following an earlier meeting with the Post Office at which it set out its concerns over the potential impact of any closures, Waverley invited the Post Office to present the proposals and answer questions at a public meeting in Farnham on Friday 8th February which was also attended by Jeremy Hunt MP and Post watch. A webcast of the event is available at www.waverley.ukcouncil.net and notes of the issues raised at the meeting are attached at Annexe 1.

Issues to consider

6. The briefing note at Annexe 1 sets out the comments made by members of the public at the consultation event on 8th February and some of the concerns previously raised by Waverley councillors. It is proposed that the points at paragraph 7 of the Annexe form the basis of Waverley’s response but that the Executive raise any additional comments at the meeting. It is particularly important that issues that appear not to have been given sufficient weight by the Post Office in coming to its recommended closures form part of the Council’s representation.


7. It is important to note that, should the representations be successful and either or both of the Post Offices in Waverley be saved from closure, there could be a further period of consultation if, as a result, the Post Office decide that alternative closures within the Area Plan are needed.

Conclusion

8. The Post Offices form an important part of the social fabric of the Borough particularly in rural areas where they often help sustain small village shops and provide an important meeting place in communities such as Tilford. The Post Office nationally has to operate within a commercial and competitive framework but is also a ‘business with a social purpose’. The Government has put in place a continued package of support, particularly for post offices in rural and deprived areas and this underlines the importance of Post Offices in such communities.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Executive agree that Waverley should:

1 object to the proposed Post Office closures in Tilford and Station Hill Farnham, given the importance of the two facilities to local communities; and

2 respond to the Post Office Closure Consultation by reinforcing the comments set out in Annexe 1 and providing any additional demographic and contextual information that may be helpful in underlining why the Post Offices at Tilford and Station Hill should not be closed.

Background Papers (DoHC)

Post Office Network Change letter dated July 2007
Postwatch letters dated 1 August 2007 and 28 January 2008
Post Office Area Plan document covering Surrey, Berkshire and West Sussex dated 29 January 2008
___________________________________________________________________
CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Iain Lynch Telephone: 01483 523203
E-mail: ilynch@waverley.gov.uk

Comms/exec/2007-08/265