• Busy

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    09 December 2018

    Last week I was flat out across the constituency – it takes over an hour to drive from one side to the other; 550 sq. miles in total and the only constituency in the country with no conurbation with a population of 10,000 or more – Central Devon’s largest towns are around 7,000 population and include Bovey Tracey, Ashburton, Okehampton and Crediton. Half of Dartmoor National Park lies within its bounds.

    Given that we are in the run up to Christmas I decided to visit some of our post offices. These lie right at the heart of our communities and over the years I have campaigned hard to see them thrive. Over a decade a go I raised over 12,000 signatures door to door right across the constituency calling on the then Labour government to halt the post office closure programme. Today we have over 11,500 of them right across the country with over 99% of people within 3 miles of a post office and over 95% of the population within a mile of a post office – these being above the targets set by government. In Okehampton I met up with Hafiz Gul who owns and runs the store and post office. A bright and attractive space and a service which is on open Monday to Saturday and from 08:30am allowing local traders time to drop in to deposit cash first thing in the morning. Banking services is an important aspect of today’s post office and vital too given the increase in online banking and the disappearance of banks from our high streets. In Chagford I met up with the team in the local Co-op which for around the last 6 months has featured the town’s post office too – business is good (you can do everything from deposit cash, tax your car, arrange Euros for your holiday and travel insurance here) and the post office and its footfall helps to drive sales in the store – a comprehensive food and drink offering. My thanks to all for the fantastic ‘post office’ cake provided! In Ashburton it was, as always, a real pleasure to meet up with Stuart and Jackie Rogers. All continues to tick over with the friendly and professional efficiency that locals have come to know with this branch. Stuart does an amazing job promoting the post office and local communities through his work as our regional representative for the National Federation of Sub Postmasters. It was a pleasure for me to have the opportunity on Radio Devon last week to recognise his work and recent ‘Toast of Devon’ award. Last week I also visited the Crediton Christmas Tree festival at the parish church – over 70 magnificent trees beautifully decorated by local community organisations. I also enjoyed a cup of tea and a catch up in the Boniface Centre afterwards. In Hatherleigh I spent time with local councillor Patrick Kimber to discuss the new medical centre which is now nearing completion. More from Mel on twitter @MelJStride and online at