The RSN made the recommendation in response to a government consultation on services offered by the post office network.
“We are in no doubt about the importance of the Post Office Network for rural communities,” said the RSN consultation response.
Despite earlier closure programmes, the combined Post Office and general store is still at the heart of many villages and was often the last remaining service outlet.
“Its role goes well beyond the sale of Post Office services (financial, postal and governmental), important though these are for both rural residents and businesses.”
The RSN says the retention of locally-based rural Post Offices is also being made more necessary by current losses among other alternative services.
“Subsidised rural bus services, which have provided some residents with their means of accessing retail centres, are now subject to review, reduction and withdrawal across the country.”
The consultation response by the RSN proposes a new rural accessibility criteria that 90% of the rural population should live within one mile of a post office outlet.
“This would ensure that the great majority of more vulnerable rural customers have fair access.
“It would be straightforward to measure and monitor, given that it follows the same format as the existing accessibility criteria."
Post offices should also be open for longer, suggests the RSN, especially in rural communities where a community post office is sometimes open just once a week.
The RSN says there is scope for post offices to offer more services, acting as local collection or drop-off points for other services, where these are not physically located nearby.
Examples could be pharmacy delivery of repeat prescriptions and returned library books.
“As much as anything, this could bring extra footfall into post office outlets and expand their role as local service hubs,” says the RSN.
“It would require considerable local flexibility, since particular collection or drop-off services provided would depend very much on local circumstances.”
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