The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

Joint Appeal to Protect Rural Postal Services

ACRE, Plunkett UK, and the Rural Services Network (RSN) have jointly signed an open letter addressing significant concerns regarding Royal Mail. The letter is directed to the Secretary of State for Business and Trade, emphasising the importance of postal and related services for rural communities. Here is the full text of the letter:

The Rt Honorable Kemi Badenoch 
Secretary of State for Business and Trade 
Old Admiralty Building, Admiralty Place 
United Kingdom 

12th June 2024 

Dear Secretary of State,

Royal Mail and Post Office Counters

In view of the timing, we are copying this to the current lead spokespeople on Business and Trade of other political parties standing in the UK General Election and to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and Ofcom. We will also be making the content of the letter more widely available.

We are writing to you because of a growing concern about the management of a range of essential services to rural communities in the UK including, but not confined to, postal services covered by the Universal Service Obligation (USO). The USO is a matter of critical importance to rural communities, rural businesses, and people living in all rural areas.

We seek reassurance from both you and Ofcom, that nothing will be negotiated in the context of the current offer to buy Royal Mail without wider impacts on rural communities and rural businesses being taken into account.

We believe there is a risk that ongoing negotiations over the transfer of ownership, and the obligations transferred with it, could close-off alternate ways in which rural areas could better be served. Over several years, market factors have resulted in people and businesses in rural communities seeing a serious drop in the quality of many essential services including postal deliveries, access to cash and other banking services, and other functions previously carried out by the Post Office. A move to placing everything online – digital by default – may, in the long term, be inevitable, but in the immediate present too many people living in rural areas find themselves severely disadvantaged over access to these services.

We ask that, as Secretary of State until 4th July, you issue a clear ‘holding instruction’ to the operators of the postal services USO to the effect that any transfer of ownership will be blocked pending the outcome of the General Election. In the same way, we ask that you issue an instruction to Ofcom that no decisions are taken over the USO in the same timescale.

Following the General Election, we look forward to your Department working with Royal Mail, the FCA, CMA, the Post Office, and Ofcom to ‘rural proof’ the way in which this collection of services are provided to rural communities in order both to avoid unequal access and enable rural businesses to thrive throughout the UK. Our three organisations stand ready to work with the Department in this endeavour.

Yours sincerely,

Corinne Pluchino
Chief Executive, ACRE 

Kerry Booth
Chief Executive, Rural Services Network 

James Alcock
Chief Executive, Plunkett UK

- You can download a copy of this letter here


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