Villagers rescue Henham post office

A VILLAGE post office has been saved from closure after parish councillors voted to up the Council Tax precept to help fund its running costs.

It comes just weeks after residents of the 1,500-strong parish of Henham also pledged their support to the idea of paying monthly subscriptions to prevent the service from being axed.

Councillors voted to increase the annual tax from �31,500 to �37,500 for the next financial year to help keep the post office open three days a week from 9am-noon.

The increase, which is solely to fund the post office, will work out at about �11 per household.

Nick Baker, chairman of Henham Parish Council, said: “Councillors value the post office in a village such as ours as a really important part of the community.

“In the same way it needs schools, shops and pubs, there should also be a post office.”

The Reporter understands it will be the first post office in the country funded by people in the community, after Essex County Council announced it would be withdrawing its funding for the service in November.

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However, it was agreed that the contract, which was due to run out this month, would be extended until the end of the financial year in March.

From the beginning of April, villagers will be paying the �12,000 per year cost to keep the post office open.

The �6,000 increase in Council Tax precept, surplus from the community shop – believed to be in the region of �1,500, and monthly subscriptions totalling �4,500 will make up the funds.

Around 70 households have signed up to contribute from as little as �1 per month, with some promising �5 or �10.

Bessie Hayden, 77, sub post mistress at the post office, was adamant that the service would remain available to people in the village and described the shop, where it’s based, as the “hub of the community”.

“It’s a social place where people can come and have a natter because they may not get to see people for a week, so it’s very important to them.”

“It is criminal asking them to have to get on a bus and go all the way to Elsenham to post a letter or collect their pensions, waiting an hour each way to do so,” she said.

Mrs Hayden added that 50 volunteers from the village help run the community store so she was not surprised to hear of residents’ support for the post office.

“I’ve had people come to me and offer to help fund the post office even if they don’t use the service that often, just because they realise how important it is to the rest of the community and they want to look out for each other.”

The post office was originally closed three years ago as part of the Government’s plan to axe 2,500 branches but reopened thanks to funding from Essex County Council, before that agreement ended this month.