WHEN Steve and Gill Pile close the doors of Charmouth Post Office at 1pm on Wednesday, May 22, 224 years of history will come to a close, leaving one of West Dorset’s busiest villages without any banking and free cash services.
That’s how long there has been a post office in Charmouth, opening one year, after. the service in Bridport, making it one of the oldest POs in the country.
Mr and Mrs Pile moved to West Dorset from Buckinghamshire to take over the post office 20 years ago and son Matthew was brought up in the area, attending the Woodroffe School.
Postmaster Mr Pile will be retiring and Mrs Pile will continue to run her greetings card franchise as she has done for 14 years.
The couple, who live in Bridport, said they had done all they could to assist the Post Office in finding a replacement service, but Mr Pile described the manner in which the Post Office had acted as “a shambles and a disgrace”.
This is the full statement they have issued following the news that the post office would close next month: “It is with deep sadness and regret that we have to announce that the post office in Charmouth will be closing in its present location at 1pm on Wednesday, May 22 2019.
“In 2013 PO Ltd announced that it was to be part of their ‘Network Transformation’ – a somewhat illogical process which basically meant that if your PO was in a community with other suitable shops available then the PO would be moved to another location and transformed into a ‘Local’ – leading to some downgrading of services and a major reduction in salary for the postmaster.
“Those POs that were the only shops in the village were to be made into Community branches and left largely untouched. The illogicality of reducing services in sizeable communities like ours more likely to be able to support a full PO was not to be argued – and believe me, we tried.
“Therefore, since 2013 Steve has been on ‘conditional resignation’. Six years is a long time to have your future and your retirement totally out of your hands with no end in sight. PO Ltd’s decision about us rendered our business totally unsaleable and, as no agreement could be reached with either of PO Ltd’s approved alternative shops in the village, we have been in limbo since that time.
“With the sale of Morgans to the present owner hopes were raised and then dashed when the process to take the PO was stopped. A determined effort between Nisa and ourselves at the beginning of the year was first met with enthusiasm by PO Ltd and then dumped in favour of an open-ended, maybe sometime agreement with Morgans.
“The process of moving a PO in these circumstances is very long-winded, so even if the process was started in the autumn it could still be 18 months from now before a move could be finalised.
“At 70 Steve is not willing to wait for something that may, or may not happen, so we have decided to close the door, not without pretty severe financial penalty to ourselves but, in the end, health and quality of life come first.
“We are still attempting to ensure that some PO services are available to the village in the form of an outreach service until a full-time location becomes possible, but this is under PO Ltd’s control as well. We know that closing the PO will have a huge financial and social impact on the village and we were hoping desperately that this situation would not arise, but sadly it has.
“On a positive note, as things stand, the present PO location will not stay as an empty eyesore into the main summer season. We have an agreement in process for another business to rent the shop without the PO.”
Important for key services
Bridport and District Citizens Advice has expressed serious concern following the news of the closure in Charmouth, particularly as it follows closures of post offices in nearby Marshwood and Morcombelake last year.
Citizens Advice branch manager Rovarn Wickremasinghe said: “We have been pressing for some time for continued funding of local post offices. We have found that people in rural areas are more likely than those living in towns and cities to depend on their local post office.
“For many people they are also important for other key services, such as banking facilities, collecting their pensions and other state benefits. Rural post offices are increasingly being used, particularly among the elderly, as a collection point for prescriptions as people often live some distance from their nearest chemist or medical centre.
“Citizens Advice have also found that small businesses in rural areas often rely heavily on their local post office with 70% of them saying that without one they would have higher costs as a result.”