Letter: This service is a lifeline to rural communities

Please find below the full text of the letter that has gone to the Post Office authorities regarding the proposed drastic reduction of the Post Office service in our area.

The letter was written by Julia Marley, Staintondale parish clerk, following an extraordinary meeting of the council last Thursday and a full public discussion of the matter by many concerned parishioners. The letter is now available in the public domain in the local Post Offices.

The most concerning fact is probably in the last paragraph. The Post Office authorities are choosing to ignore the fact that there is someone in the village who has worked with Griselda James for five years, and is capable and willing to take on the service.

Yet another reduction in rural services - proposed cut in service provision, Staintondale and Ravenscar Rural Community Post Offices.

An extraordinary meeting of Staintondale Parish Council was held on Thursday February 18, specifically to consider the proposed reduction in service hours to two hours/week/village and establish the level of objection to these proposed cuts in hours.

The council meeting was extremely well-attended by parishioners from both villages. Feelings among parishioners and councillors alike were very strongly that rural post offices are more than just a post office - they are part of the fabric of community life, a lifeline for the rural communities they serve and provide a local amenity as well as a centre point for the community. They provide an important information hub within the community and both are combined with a local shop.

Everyone at the meeting had been horrified to learn of Post Office Counter’s proposal to reduce the current service to two hours/week/village in a village hall - said service to be provided by some outreach service.

Not only is the drastic cut (believed to be 78 per cent) in hours totally unnecessary, there is a parishioner who is ready and willing to provide a post office service from their own premises, yet the powers that be at the Post Office seem to be totally ignoring this fact.

Aside from the fact the nearest alternative post office in Cloughton is over three miles distant from Staintondale and nearly six miles from Ravenscar, the logistics of getting to alternative post office services provided in Cloughton church (10am-1.30pm Tuesday and noon to 3.30pm Thursday) or Burniston (9am-5.30pm Mon-Fri and 9am-12.30pm Saturday) become so impractical as to be useless for people without access to private transport.

Buses are a rapidly decreasing commodity in rural areas. While both villages have two buses a day in each direction Monday to Saturday, it will take three hours to get to Burniston Post Office and back. Leave Ravenscar 1045 arrive 1103. Go to post office and transact business. Then wait almost two hours for the bus back to Ravenscar - which leaves Burniston at 1327, arriving Ravenscar 1345.

Suggestions that people can transact much of their business online instead of going to the post office is laughed at by many parishioners - not for this parish are the joys of superfast broadband - many parishioners have speeds little better than a dial up connection. This places individuals who do not have access to bank accounts or the internet at a disadvantage resulting in even greater rural isolation.

The parish council wishes to object in the strongest possible terms to the proposals to cut the post office provision down to two hours/week per village, be it on an outreach basis or not. There is someone in the parish who IS willing to run a post office and the parish council would like to see a service comprising a sensible number of hours provided by a parishioner in the two villages.

Michael Lester

Bell Hill Farm

Staintondale