AMONG my many local meetings last week was a special visit to Ashburton Post Office to officially open the Ashburton Hub.

Believed to be a UK first, The Hub will provide Post Office, library and banking services all from one location. 

Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds have already committed to operate services. 

I have worked closely with postmaster Stuart Rogers on many projects, such as moving Ashburton Library into the Post Office in 2015 but this was really special – a beacon of hope to communities that have seen bank branches disappear.

Residents will now be able to access more banking services than they could through the Post Office and financial inclusion personnel will be available at certain times to provide advice on area like debt, welfare and financial capability.

From Ashburton it was to Chudleigh to meet the Chief Executive of Rowcroft Hospice, Mark Hawkins.

Mark has secured planning permission to rebuild the hospice in Torquay and to build a new 60-bed specialist nursing home for patients with dementia and complex needs, and an additional 40 assisted living units.

Although outside our constituency, the ambitious expansion plans will meet a growing need across the whole of South Devon and will support local families when up and running.

There will need to be a lot of fundraising to deliver his vision and I will support him alongside other local MPs where I can.

After meeting Mark I sat down with Kevin Mitchell, Manager of Buckfastleigh Foodbank, to discuss the vital work of the Trussell Trust.

We spoke about some of the issues their users face and how the foodbank tries to help them so that food parcels are no longer required.

Last year I was very pleased to support the foodbank by helping them secure a £2,000 grant. I valued Kevin’s insights not least given my responsibilities at DWP.

From Teignbridge it was up to Mid Devon for a meeting with parish and district councillors in Thorverton where I was briefed on plans to set up a Community Land Trust to deliver affordable homes in the village.

I have supported affordable schemes right across our constituency – they are key to ensuring local families are not priced out of the communities they have grown up in.

I also caught up with Mike St John Cooper, Senior Youth Support Worker at Room 13 Youth Centre in Okehampton. I have recently spent time with a number of organisations in the town with a focus on mental health, such as Tor Counselling and Okehampton Memory Café, and was keen to catch up with how the youth centre is doing.

Although first and foremost a fun and friendly place for young people to spend time, the centre also provides important advice and support around employment, education and training, and on subjects such as sexual health and relationships. Mike and his team do outstanding and important work.

More from Mel at or follow him on X (Twitter) @MelJStride.