The government must confirm its funding of the postal network and safeguard the future of rural services as a matter of urgency, Citizens Advice said.

An official decision on funding the postal network has still not yet been confirmed by the government, almost a year after its public consultation closed in December 2016.

Its existing agreement with Post Office Limited is due to end in 2018.

As the statutory watchdog for postal consumers, Citizens Advice is calling on the government to publish its consultation response and commit appropriate funding for the next three years, to ensure rural post offices remain open.

Any loss of funding would seriously affect rural post offices and the people and small businesses who relied on them, Citizens Advice said.

A new report by the charity shows that people in rural areas are more likely than their urban counterparts to depend on their local post office for key services, including postal services, banking, collecting state benefits, pensions and purchasing household goods.

As other public spaces dwindle in rural areas, a poll of over 800 rural residents found over a quarter of people relied on their local post office for learning about local events and services.

The survey also found one in five people said they would lose contact with neighbours or friends if it wasn’t for their local post office.

This was particularly important for people over 65 years old, people with a disability, carers and those who are digitally excluded.

Small businesses also relied on post offices more in rural areas, with seven out of 10 anticipating they would have higher costs without their post office and eight out of 10 saying it would be more time-consuming running their business.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “With pubs and banks closing up shop in many rural areas, post offices remain crucial community institutions.

“This is especially true for vulnerable groups like older people, people with a disability, carers and those who do not have access or the skills to use the internet.

“That is why we’re calling on the government to ensure vulnerable groups are protected by confirming funding for the postal network, including crucial rural post offices.”