Devon County Council supports local village shops

PUBLISHED: 12:14 19 September 2008 | UPDATED: 11:10 17 June 2010

Since Post Office Limited published their proposed closure list for Devon post offices, Devon County and District Councils with other partners have been fighting hard on behalf of local communities to save the services.

Since Post Office Limited published their proposed closure list for Devon post offices, Devon County and District Councils with other partners have been fighting hard on behalf of local communities to save the services.

In some cases the partners' persistence has paid off, with communities now getting a better outcome than they might otherwise have got, said a Devon County Council spokesman.

Where Post Office Limited has now agreed to close services with no alternative, Devon County Council has not been able to help.

POL has in some cases, though, agreed to 'partnered' services with local shop owners, allowing post office counters to remain in some village shops.

Under those agreements, shop owners will lose the financial benefits that they have previously received from POL, so Devon County Council has identified within its short term support strategy, specific financial help for them.

Said a Devon County Council spokesman: "The disadvantage of a partnered service from the point of the shop owner is that they will no longer receive a salary from POL and the remuneration for providing the service is minimal. Many post office/shops have historically relied on the Post Office income to support the retail side of their business, so losing that support could put some shops at risk.

"The council has identified 12 communities in Devon where the viability of the only shop in the village is thrown into question as a result of losing its direct links with POL.

"The council is offering these shops grants of up to £5,000 per year for up to three years, together with free business advice. By supporting these shops over three years, the Council's aim is for them to become viable and sustainable in the long term."

The shops to be supported are in the following communities:

* Ashwater

* Blackawton

* Bridgerule

* Bridestow

* Chillaton, Lifton

* Dittisham

* Kennerleigh

* Milton Abbot

* Newton St Cyres

A further three village shops are likely to be supported, but these prefer not to be named until they have concluded contractual arrangements with Post Office Limited, said a Devon County Council spokesman.

Shop owners have expressed a keen interest in the council's support, and officers have made initial contact to start a dialogue.

Steve Haigh, who owns the shop in Chillaton, West Dartmoor, said: "This grant will tip the balance between this shop continuing to stay in business, and it folding. Removing the post office services effectively takes away about half of our business. Although we would have had to carry on as best we can, this grant makes the prospect a much more viable option."

Cllr Brian Berman, the Council's Executive Member for Communities, said: "For many small communities the local shop is the hub of the village, providing far more than just basic groceries. Lifelines like these can make all the difference to older people, people without their own transport or where public transport is limited.

"That is why, having tried our hardest to get the best outcomes for communities from POL, we now want to support these village shops to help them continue running post office services for their communities."

said a Devon County Council spokesman: "The council is also looking at other practical ways to support local communities, such as changes to existing public and community transport to help people who now need to travel further to get to their nearest alternative post office. They will also be launching a campaign to encourage people to use their local shops/post offices. And they are exploring the possibility of linking Credit/Savings Unions with some shop post offices.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Sidmouth Herald