The Post Office network has suffered systematic neglect at the hands of successive Labour and Conservative governments. It has reached the point of needing major investment and reinvigoration if the closure of many thousands of Post Offices that is expected in the years to come is to be avoided.
The Coalition Agreement, drawn up in May 2010, finally offers security for our much valued Post Offices. Under the new business secretary, Vince Cable, Post Offices will be allowed to offer a much wider range of services, including potentially creating a new Post Office bank. This will bring business back to Post Offices, helping safeguard their long term future. Royal Mail will be put on a stable footing with an injection of private capitol.
Post Office Card Accounts
The previous Government’s dithering over Post Office Card Accounts (POCAs) was symbolic of its neglectful attitude to the whole Post Office network. The cards are used by 4.5 million people, and have proven far more successful than originally expected, however the Department for Work and Pensions planned to phase them out. This would not only have deprived many people of a convenient, accessible way of accessing their pensions and benefits, it would also have attracted much-needed business to our Post Offices. I was delighted when the Government eventually decided to introduce a new POCA after the old contract expired, and awarded the new contract to Post Office Ltd, however there is still much more which can be done to bring business back to the Post Office.
Jo’s news stories on the Post Office Card Account
External news stories on the Post Office Card Account
Government taking business away from Post Offices
Shamefully, under the last government, several Government departments withdrew services from the Post Office. The DVLA encouraged people to renew tax discs online rather than at the Post Office. The TV licensing authorities no longer uses Post Offices for TV licences. In 2007, the Department for Work and Pensions axed a £12million postage contract with Royal Mail to deliver pension and benefits statements and winter fuel payment notifications. Combined with card accounts, this amounted to a cross-departmental assault on Post Office services. No wonder many Post Offices found themselves struggling.
Jo’s news stories on Government taking business away from Post Offices
Saving our local Post Offices
In 2004 plans were announced for the closure of Post Offices in Auchinairn, Courthill, Killermont and Westerton. I immediately went about collecting comments and information from people who would be affected by the closures, and compiled reports making cases against each of the closures. I talked to managers and sub-postmasters, who supported my campaign, but unfortunately the consultation process was a sham, and these four Post Offices were closed.
- Read my local survey of reactions to the proposed closure of Auchinairn Post Office
- Read my local survey of reactions to the proposed closure of Courthill Post Office
- Read my local survey of reactions to the proposed closure of Killermont Post Office
- Read my local survey of reactions to the proposed closure of Westerton Post Office
Jo’s news stories on saving our local Post Offices
External news stories on saving our local Post Offices
Kirkintilloch Post Office
As soon as it was announced in April 2007 that the Post Office on Kerr Street, Kirkintilloch, was to be moved to WH Smith in Cowgate, I began meeting with local people and Post Office representatives, including the Managing Director Alan Cook, to try to ensure that the concerns of staff and customers were taken into consideration. I found that local people were overwhelmingly against the move. The case was succinctly put by one Kirkintilloch resident, Mrs Reba Copper, who said:
“WH Smith has a totally inadequate area to replace the Post Office building, which can contain the queues at busy periods. A town the size of Kirkintilloch should have a proper Post Office, not just one squashed inside another shop.”
The Government did run a consultation to find out people’s views on the move, it was very poorly advertised and few of the people I spoke to even knew it was happening. I organised a petition, which gained over 1,000 signatures, which I submitted as part of the consultation, but still the Post Office claimed it has received “a very small number of representations”, and the views of local people were ignored. The Post Office was finally moved in November 2007: yet another example of the previous Government failing to listen to ordinary people.
- Read my submission to the consultation on Kirkintilloch Post Office
- Read Post Office Ltd’s response to my submission
Jo’s news stories on Kirkintilloch Post Office
External news stories on Kirkintilloch Post Office
Bishopbriggs Post Office
The story of Bishopbriggs Post Office is a rare success story, and a fantastic example of how a community can come together to support local services against a Government intent on shutting them down.
Morrisons announced in 2004 that they intended to shut down the Post Office in Safeway in Bishopbriggs. I launched a campaign save the Post Office, taking my petition to every household in Bishopbriggs, collecting 2,300 signatures, and even went Morrisons’ HQ in Bradford to present my case. I launched a website to campaign to save the 21 Post Offices which Morrisons planned to close across the county, determined that this important community service should not be closed down for the sake of creating more shelf space for groceries.
Although Morrisons shut down the Post Office in Safeway regardless of local opposition, I also sent the petition to the Post Office, who were persuaded of the need to locate a new Post Office in the town centre. They worked alongside local businessman John Dickson to create a plan to house a Post Office in a new expanded Poppies gift shop and newsagent. I was delighted to cut the ribbon at the opening of the new Post Office, and I hope that other campaigners will be able to learn something from this successful campaign to save a highly valued local service.
Jo’s news stories on Bishopbriggs Post Office
The Post Office has published details about local Post Office closure plans for parts of England as the first wave of closures come into effect. Details include a booklet about the local area plan, a map with proposed closures marked and branch access reports. Click on the link to access the Post Office’s page.