Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 35(4) pp 587-601

The importance of public service provision and accessibility in shaping government policies aimed at enhancing social inclusion and ensuring social justice in the UK is well founded. The capabilities of GIS for generating information to address such concerns have facilitated a widespread interest in measuring and analysing accessibility to public services. Previous studies have drawn attention to the potential implications of any changes in the provision of essential services such as post offices, food shops or GP surgeries. For example, the number of post offices in the UK has declined significantly since the mid 1960s and GIS has been used to monitor spatial and temporal patterns in closures in previous research studies. The aim of this paper is to assess the implications of the 2007–08 Network Change Programme on the spatial configuration of post offices in Wales. Using a network analysis approach, we identify those areas that have no service within the access criteria used to guide the closure programme and calculate the extra distances involved in travelling to the nearest outlet following closures. Our results suggest that national guidelines on provision of post offices are not met in Wales or within any of the five area plans that cover Wales. Perceptions that it is rural areas that have been disproportionately impacted can be challenged on the basis of the measure used to examine such changes. Such findings can provide an important context to in-depth surveys of the impacts of the closure programme on potentially vulnerable groups within both urban and rural communities. Furthermore they demonstrate how GIS-based analysis can inform policymakers of the potential impact of changes in provision for those most dependent on a range of public services.