CENTRAL Devon is a vast constituency with many small towns and villages. It takes an hour and a half to drive across it.

It's a place where community really matters and right at the heart of many of those communities are our brilliant local Post Offices such as that at Exminster that I visited and met with last week.

Post Offices are more than just a place to buy a stamp.

In villages they are a lifeline for older people and the only place they can pay their bills or do their banking. That’s why protecting our Post Offices has always been key for me.

Prior to my election as an MP, I ran a campaign across Central Devon securing 14,000 signatories for a petition to save rural Post Offices, which were in danger of being closed under the last Labour Government's Post Office closure programme. We fared far better than other constituencies when the axe fell.

Over the years I have also run several "Use it or Lose it" campaigns to encourage local communities to support their Post Offices.

When Barclays Bank refused to let their customers withdraw money at local Post Office branches, I spoke (as the then Chair of the Treasury Select Committee) in the House of Commons to highlight this issue.

The next day Barclays reversed their decision - a victory for many Barclays customers in Central Devon who can now withdraw cash at their local Post Office rather than travel much further afield to their nearest Barclays branch.

There are now additional customer services that Post Office offer to local branches, such as serving as a drop off and collection point for delivery companies.

Last summer the Government introduced a partnership with the Post Office to provide an in-person service to support the roll-out of GOV.UK One Login.

The scheme allows users to have just one account, one username, one password and one identity check to use many different Government services online.

These include accessing self-assessment tax returns, conducting a DBS check or applying for pension credit.

Most people will be within 10 miles of a Post Office branch that is offering this service.

Recognising that online verification can be daunting for some people, the partnership with Post Office gives more people the confidence to use GOV.UK One Login and access the vital services they need.

In light of the pressures faced by Post Offices in Central Devon, I would like to see Post Office working more closely with local branches to make sure they can access and implement these services, which could provide them with more long-term financial security.

This is something that I am pressing hard with ministers in Westminster and I have secured a firm commitment from our Post Office minister to visit our constituency shortly to meet with local Post Pffices to discuss these issues.

As ever I will continue to do whatever I can to ensure that our local Post Offices thrive.