Michael Fabricant says "The Government’s plans announced today to close
2,500 Post Offices across the country, on top of the 4,000 already shut
since 1999, are alarming. In the Lichfield Parliamentary Constituency
there were 22 post offices back in 1999 which were reduced down to 19 by
2005. Pro rata, a further 2,500 closures could see 3 more post offices
cut in my constituency. I will now be having urgent talks with The Post
Office and ministers at the Department of Trade and Industry to
ascertain precisely which local post offices are at risk.
"The cuts will start next summer. In many areas, post offices are the
lifeblood of the community. These cuts will hit the vulnerable and the
elderly the hardest. Labour Ministers need to recognise that if the
local Post Office closes, often the last shop in the vicinity closes as
well, and a van for a couple of hours a week is no replacement for a
Post Office open full time.
"Conservatives have called for Sub-Post Offices to be given greater
freedoms to offer a wider range of commercial products and are pushing
for more Post Offices to be ‘one stop shops’ for central government
services. We would rewrite Sub-Postmasters’ contracts, allowing them to
provide a greater range of products and services, including private mail
services. We will investigate a scheme whereby people who have concerns
about a range of Government services can use their local Post Office as
a kind of ‘Government GP’. Trained staff in Post Offices could then
advise on a range of matters, including tax returns, pension
entitlements, the opening hours of local pharmacies, how to apply for a
disabled parking badge, and the like", Michael adds.
The Government issued a statement on Thursday 14 December 2006 launching
a consultation on its plans for the Post Office network. It calls for
major cuts in the number of Post Offices. The overwhelming majority of
remaining the Post Office network are sub-post offices run by private
businessmen and women. The Government plan states: "We will provide
support for a restructuring of the network with up to 2,500 closures
within that framework which will maintain a national network.
Subpostmasters leaving the network under the restructuring programme
will be compensated. We expect that Post Office Ltd will implement this
process over an 18 month period from summer 2007" (DTI, The Post Office
Network, December 2006, p.6). http://www.dti.gov.uk/consultations/page36024.html
An estimated 4,000 Post Offices have already closed under the current
Government. The Labour Government’s Post Office Minister, Jim
Fitzpatrick, told Parliament on 16th October: "The reality is that too
many offices are chasing too few customers to be viable."
"Not surprising", Michael says "when the Government has reduced the
footfall in post offices by removing vital services like the TV licence
renewal and cash payments to pensioners."