RURAL stakeholders are being urged to respond to a consultation on Post Office services and accessibility.
Launched by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, the consultation aims to inform the government's next state aid application to Brussels.
Under European Commission state aid rules, an evidence base for the level of funding government gives to Post Office Ltd must be provided.
The government is asking stakeholders to tell say what they expect from the post office network. Responses will be used to help determine the funding provided to the post office after the existing agreement with Post Office Limited ends in 2018.
No changes to the network are proposed through this consultation.
The government says it will have invested almost £2bn to modernise and sustain the network from 2010 to 2017/18. During this time, it says it has improved customer experience and the efficiency of the company.
By helping the government understand what customers and small businesses expect from branches, it says the consultation will inform future funding applications for the network. This includes how much support should be provided and what it should be used for.
No changes are being proposed in the consultation, which was launched on 8 November.
The government has also published research showing post offices remain a core part of local communities in the digital age, with 95% of people still accessing services at their local branch.
Business Minister Margot James said: "This research shows how much communities and businesses value the Post Office. That's why the government is committed to funding, maintaining and enhancing the national network."
Some 4,000 Post Office branches now open on Sundays, with some 200,000 extra opening hours since 2012.
More than 90% of consumers and 88% of small businesses use post office services at least once a year, according to a survey by YouGov and London Economics. More than half of customers said they used their local branch for two or more services.
Carried out in 2015, the study carried polled more than 5,000 households and senior representatives from 750 small and medium-size businesses.
The consultation will remain open until 21 December 2016. To view and respond, click here.