Under-threat rural Essex post office saved by villagers

Villagers have stepped in to save a rural post office in one of the first schemes of its kind.

Customers have agreed to pay monthly direct debit subscriptions towards the running of Henham Post Office, in Essex.

The donations will help ensure the business remains open after three years of council funding runs out next month.

The post office will be open for three mornings a week at a cost of £12,000 a year.

Sub postmistress Bessie Hayden, 77, said the scheme showed "big society in action".

"David Cameron talks about the 'big society' and helping ourselves," she said.

"This is what we've done - it's an example of big society in action."

Closure programme

The post office, based in the volunteer-run village shop, serves the local population of around 1,500.

It shut in July 2008 as part of a government closure programme.

But it re-opened for five mornings a week four months later after Essex County Council provided a grant to pay for the running costs.

Kevin Bentley, the council's cabinet member for economic development, said the post office had received nearly £90,000.

He said: "We are delighted that the local community in Henham have rallied around their post office."

Around 45 people have so far committed to paying various amounts to the business through the direct debit subscriptions.

A Post Office spokesman said 14 of its 11,500 branches were funded locally.

"We are pleased that the local community has been able to identify a solution to maintain the service in the light of funding changes later this year," the spokesman said.

Running costs are expected to be covered from the subscriptions and the parish council precept.

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