A website launched today will help communities who want to run their own post offices.
The site, developed by Wales-based CF Labs, the online arm of watchdog Consumer Focus, is the first of its kind. It lists community post offices around the country, explaining what they do and how they’ve done it, so others can learn from their example.
Consumer Focus and the Social Enterprise Coalition have compiled a directory of 70 existing community post offices across the UK, four of which are in Wales, to assist neighbourhoods in setting up their own branch and to help those that already exist.
Almost half of the post offices said they had revived post office services following a post office closure. Although one in four of the community post offices is making a loss, all of those surveyed said they thought they would still be open in a years’ time.
Maria Battle, Senior Director at Consumer Focus Wales, said:
‘This site will give communities looking at taking over a local post office ideas and information on what others have already done. Community post offices are highly dependent on the goodwill of local people and this goodwill must be returned by Post Office Limited through support to help community post offices flourish. More advice needs to be given to existing community post offices on how to make their business more sustainable and as well as better guidance for communities looking to set up their own post office.’
Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition, said:
‘This online resource is an easy to use tool for those interested in taking over the running of a post office or establishing new postal services. Reading about how others have done it and the common challenges to expect will be helpful to those embarking on the journey of running a service for the benefit of the community as a social enterprise. Support and advice from peers is vital for anybody starting up or taking over a business.’
Consumer Focus is launching a report today – Taking Charge – alongside the website. This looks at the experiences of communities that have set up their own post office. It asked the 70 community post offices a range of questions to find out about their set up. These covered reasons for opening, ownership and management structures, the balance of paid and unpaid staff, the range of services on offer, the types of premises used and profitability.
Notes to editors:
- Journalists can already view the new online resource at www.cflabs.org.uk/communitypostoffices
- Spokespeople and case studies of community post offices are available for interview. Please see example case studies below.
- A map showing where across the country the 70 community post offices are located is available through the website.
- The online resource of community post offices was developed by Consumer Focus Labs, the online arm of watchdog Consumer Focus. Consumer Focus commissioned the Social Enterprise Coalition and Plunkett Foundation to undertake phone interviews with a range of community post offices to provide the online directory with an initial 70 community post offices. Surveys were undertaken in February and March 2010 and the information gathered during these surveys has been used to populate the online resource and inform an accompanying report.
- There are estimated to be more than 140 community post offices across the UK. The resource is encouraging those not already listed to register and share their experience. We will be encouraging other community post offices in Wales to register on the site once it is launched.
Community Post Office case studies:
Dryslwyn Community Shop Ltd in Carmarthenshire, Wales, was established in 2009 taking over an existing business. The original organisation was opened for business in 1852. It was run by the Bryer family as H.G. Bryer and Sons from around 1914 until 2009, but in recent years barely broke even due to the rise of supermarkets and home delivery services from nearby towns. In the summer of 2008, Post Office Limited announced that the Post Office would be closed as part of the national closure programme. The shop would no longer be viable and would also close. Local residents formed an action group to oppose the closure, since the shop served an area of over 150 square miles with no other alternative. In November 2008 a suggestion emerged that the shop could remain open if run by volunteers – it is staffed by two part-time volunteers. The business became a not for profit company limited by guarantee, run by an elected committee whose meetings are open to all members.
The Cwmdu Shop and Post Office in Carmarthenshire, Wales, was established in 2000. It is a company limited by guarantee with a board of directors. In the early 1990s the village school, shop and pub closed. A partnership between the residents and the National Trust, with the National Trust running three holiday cottages, provided income and customers to the social enterprise managed by Cymdeithas Cwmdu, keeping the shop, post office and pub running.
Abergynolwyn Community Centre in Gwynedd, Wales, was established in 2005. It is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status run by a management committee and it revived postal services that were closed.
The Bryn Trading Post is a local community Post Office and Shop in the middle of The Bryn in Monmouthshire, Wales. It opened in September 2006 following the closure of the original Shop & Post Office closing in 2004. The Bryn Trading Post is a Community Interest Company, run by volunteers for the benefit of the community. It has a board of directors. It is estimated that around half of the shop customers use the Post Office services.