Internet shopping and big supermarkets have brought many benefits but have also sounded a death knell for thousands of village businesses. 

The good news is community co-operatives, supported by Plunkett Foundation, have brought back to life not just businesses lost to the community but more amenities too, such as dry cleaning, Post Offices and libraries – as well as providing a welcoming hub for everyone. 

Going postal – Rural Post Offices have been in decline for years but many of our Plunkett-supported community co-operatives include postal services in their offering, bringing a much-needed resource back into the area. Barkers of Huby in Yorkshire, for example, negotiated a new contract with the Post Office when it opened as a community co-operative in 2015. Users greatly appreciate the banking services it offers along with mail delivery. At Bamford Community Society in the Peak District, also known as The Anglers Rest, 85% of members regularly use the Post Office. 

A whole range of services – You’d be surprised what one community co-operative can offer. Clapham Village Store in Yorkshire lists prescription collection amongst its many services and is open from 8am-5.30pm daily. Lythe Community Shop, also in Yorkshire, offers fruit and veg donated by members of the community. At Thurlton Community Store in Norfolk, you can even get your haircut! 

Life’s a social whirl – Our #thelittlethings campaign aims to raise the lid on loneliness and encourage people to do something small to reach out to those who may feel isolated. Community co-operatives play a vital role in reducing loneliness, not just by providing a hub where people can buy a drink or their groceries, but in allowing different social clubs to thrive. One example is The Anglers Rest whose daytime café is an important centre for local activities such as U3A meetings, “crafty coffee” sessions and folk music. 

So how can one community co-operative offer so much? Because these organisations have been set up by the residents who want and need them, and because they are run by volunteers who appreciate being able to do something of real use to their neighbours. They can tailor their offering to provide all the services that are really valued rather than simply those that turn the most profit. And we can all say cheers to that!