Peter Couchman is the Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation.

The Plunkett Foundation is the organisation which promotes and supports co-operative and social enterprises in rural communities both in the UK and internationally. It provides support, networks and knowledge which offers practical solutions for rural communities that helps to create thriving places where people live and work now and in the future.

Monday, 18 October 2010

A mutual solution for the Post Office?

Fear of crime in rural areas is high, yet actual crime is lower than most urban areas. By the same token, fear of losing the local Post Office is high even though the network closure programme is long over and Post Office Ltd has been working hard to build a modern network that can meet rural needs. Even so, the fear remains.

The Government's announcement on the future of the Post Office last week will have triggered that fear again. Yet its plans offer a real opportunity for rural communities. It has stated that the Post Office will either remain under state control or become a mutual. Plunkett's position on mutualisation is to judge each by how genuinely mutual it will be and to challenge if it isn't. In the case of the Post Office, it looks good so far. We see clear criteria to ensure a balance of interests and a real opportunity for community-owned shops to have a voice at the highest level.

We'll be urging all communities that want to protect their postal services to engage in the consultation to ensure that the final outcome is as mutual as the draft bill intends. Genuine ownership of the postal services, so vital to village life, could turn that fear into pride.

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