£1m funding for post offices

INDEPENDENT subpostmasters in Berwickshire are being urged to take advantage of a diversification scheme which saw 49 post offices throughout Scotland receive awards of around £25,000 last year.

This funding allowed the facilities to provide new services not available locally, such as the sale of fresh produce, setting up an internet cafe and expanding their retail operation through a website.

There were no Berwickshire beneficiaries in 2010/11 but earlier this week it was announced that £1 million would be in the pot for 2011/12, welcome news a week after the rural post office network was dealt a blow with the news that a multi-million pound contract to process giro cheques had been awarded to the American firm Citibank.

The new batch of funding was announced by Finance Secretary John Swinney during February’s Stage 3 debate on the Budget Bill.

He commented: “Our original diversification fund is now helping to sustain post offices playing an integral part in community life, providing services on which many families and local businesses depend.

“Our spending plans for 2011-12 are firmly focused on doing all we can to sustain economic recovery in Scotland, and building an increasingly supportive environment for small businesses - something which is key to the achievement of our ongoing growth strategy.

“A further £1 million to support local post offices will greatly assist this work and we look forward to seeing applications from around Scotland from subpostmasters looking to pursue new revenue streams such as retailing, selling different goods, or providing a business service not already available in their locality.”

Mervyn Jones, National Federation of SubPostmasters Commercial Director and Executive Officer for Scotland, said: “The National Federation of SubPostmasters warmly welcomes the Scottish Government’s decision to extend its £1 million Post Office diversification fund for a further year.

“Post offices provide vital services to communities across Scotland, and this important scheme offers subpostmasters the chance to introduce new services for their customers and help make their post offices more sustainable.”

Paula Vennells, Managing Director of Post Office Ltd, added: “Post Office Ltd is delighted that the Scottish Government is continuing to support SubPostmasters through this fund. This will help SubPostmasters in Scotland to diversify and build footfall in their retail businesses, which helps the viability of their overall business including the post office within it, a service recognised by their customers as so vital to each community.”

Applications must be received by July 29 and those successful will be informed in the autumn.