The vital importance of thriving villages cannot be underestimated. Not only should our villages and market towns look picturesque but they should also be able to provide services to their residents. They should not fall to the level of pretty ‘window dressing’ for the tourist trade. However important tourism is to these local economies, it would be a travesty and a scandal if people struggled to work and live there!
The Post Office, in particular, provides a place for people to pay their bills, collect benefits, get their car taxed and buy stamps locally. Sadly, the number of branches has dwindled from about 25,000 in the mid-1960s to around 11,500 today, according to figures from the Post Office. Although so much can be done online nowadays, this doesn’t replace the community spirit that local businesses can provide and you can’t get the emergency pint of milk and a loaf of bread online!
I am delighted to have helped a local businessman buy secure a Post Office licence in a small West Yorkshire village. The successful acquisition has rescued the village Post Office from closure – more about this success story very soon!
Older people, more often than not, have to rely on other dwindling local services, and our vanishing rural bus routes too. They are, quite literally, a life-line for our elderly population. Anyone of a certain age will remember with fondness days gone by when one could count on being able to buy groceries, sort out finances, pick up parcels, send letters to friends and relatives overseas or even buy a local paper without having to drive to a soulless shopping centre miles away.
I am judge and juror on the West Yorkshire Business Jury (www.businessjury.co.uk) which periodically asks a dozen local businessmen and women a topical question. One of our most recent verdicts was that the high street needs to adapt or die. One juror, Frances Bennett of geotechnical services company Ashton Bennett, applauded Mary Portas' review for the government which recommended the ideas of the Transition Town movement. The movement champions community-owned bakeries, food-growing projects and even community-owned energy. Let’s apply that brilliant ethos to our villages as well!