Recently, there was a good deal of anxiety in Dorchester about the possible closure of the post office at Victoria Park.
This particular issue has now gone away, as it has now been decided that the post office in Victoria Park will remain open.
However, this episode prompted me to investigate what has been happening to post offices across West Dorset as a whole over the last few years.
Readers of this column may recall that, for many years, there was a rather rapid decline in the number of rural post offices, and there were increasing concerns that the network would eventually virtually disappear.
So what has happened since the Post Office network was privatised in 2012?
The answer is that the number of post offices across the country has remained virtually constant – falling slightly from 11696 in 2013 to 11634 in 2014 and rising again to 11643 in 2015. Roughly 99.7% of the population nationally now lives within 3 miles of a post office and 92.9% of the population lives within one mile of a post office.
In West Dorset, where I have been dealing with specific issues about specific post offices for the last couple of decades, there are now signs that the situation has stabilised – and even some signs that it is improving.
We now have 43 post offices in West Dorset. Seven of them are now open on Sundays. And the total number of hours in which they are open has gone up by 350 hours per week since 2012.
Certainly, we need to remain vigilant about all of this, because village post offices (and of course the larger post offices in the towns) continue to perform an invaluable service for the community in many different ways. But is good to see the demolition of the network which had been taking place, has been arrested and may even be beginning to be reversed.
The situation in the Bridport area reflects the general trend.
As well as the main post office in Bridport itself (now open for 10 hours more per week than it used to be), we have retained post offices of various sorts in Bradpole, Burton Bradstock, Marshwood, Morecombelake, Chideock, Charmouth, Beaminster, Broadwindsor and my own village of Thorncombe.
For some while, there have been issues about the post office in Lyme Regis – but I am delighted that here, too, a post office remains open.
So it isn’t just in the east of West Dorset that the network has been maintained.
Nor is this just a southern phenomenon.
Around Sherborne too, the network is basically being maintained.
In addition to the main post office in Sherborne itself, there are sub post offices of various kinds at Trent, North Wootton, Bishops Caundle, Leigh, Chetnole, Thornford, Bradford Abbas and at Yetminster – where the hours of service have increased.
I am perfectly sure that we will continue to have various alarms and excursions about particular offices over the coming years. But, we can at least be sure that, throughout West Dorset, the Post Office is alive and well.