Local politicians Adam Price and Jonathan Edwards have given a cautious welcome the announcement by the Westminster government that it is investing £370million into the Post Office network, but the Plaid Cymru duo said rural communities in Carmarthenshire and throughout Wales needed guarantees that they would benefit from the circa £160million of that money which is designed to protect rural community branches.
The announcement was made by Westminster's Secretary of State for Business Greg Clark MP on Wednesday 20th December. The three year funding deal, starting from April 2018, was announced as the Post Office declared it had made a profit for the first time in 16 years.
The number of Post Offices in Wales has reduced from 1,146 to 931 over the last decade.
Assembly Member Adam Price said the announcement could be welcomed "at face value" but added that the "devil will be in the detail" on how rural communities in Carmarthenshire will benefit. Mr Price said that protecting the post office network was particularly important in light of recent bank closure announcements.
His constituency colleague and Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards said the money announced for the network is a "drop in the ocean" to what successive Westminster governments have "stripped from the service". Mr Edwards said the so-called modernisation of the network really meant "centralisation and closure of local services."
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Assembly Member Adam Price said:
"At face value additional money for the Post Office network is to be welcomed. But the devil will be in the detail on how rural branches such as ours in Carmarthenshire will really benefit, and how they will be supported to maintain their vitally important place in our rural communities.
"Strengthening the Post Office network in rural Wales has, of course, taken an increasingly significant role in light of the continuing closure of bank branches.
"Almost £700million was cut from the Post Office budget in 2015, meaning today's announcement won't go half the way to plugging the gap which the Westminster government itself created.
"I will look carefully at what new and specific safeguards will be put in place with today's announcement to ensure Carmarthenshire branches are protected. Without those safeguards then today's announcement is meaningless."
Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards added:
"If we look back to the start of the Tony Blair government in 1997 the UK had 19,008 post office branches. By the end of the New Labour government with Gordon Brown in 2010 this had dramatically reduced to 11,905. The Conservative governments since 2010 have continued to preside over declines to the network albeit at a much smaller scale.
"The funding announced for the Post Office today is a drop in the ocean to what successive Westminster governments have stripped from the service with their so-called modernisation programme which has often been little more than spin for the centralisation and closure of local services.
"I do welcome the recognition of the need to protect rural branches. I and my colleagues will be scrutinising the package to see what protections are to be put in place and how the network in Carmarthenshire can take advantage of them."