Post Office Network
There is currently a review (the ‘Network Change Programme’ or NCP) into the network and some further planned closures have been announced, for details please see the Birmingham, Coventry and Warwickshire area plan on the Post Office website: click here.
There is one planned closure actually in my constituency, of The Green Post Office and just over the border in Richard Burden's Northfield constituency, there is another planned closure, of Middlemore Road Post Office. There is a public consultation period on the proposed closures in Birmingham that lasts for 6 weeks closing on 04 August 2008.
Comments can be given by writing to Post Office Ltd:
Mark Partington, Network Development Manager
C/O National Consultation Team Post Office Ltd FREEPOST CONSULTATION TEAM (no stamp required);
by telephone: 08457 22 33 44
or email: email@example.com
As for my own views, I have been working with Richard Burden and others on this issue and have collaborated on the following submissions to the consultation, which call on Post Office Ltd to reconsider their proposals to close these two Post Offices:
The Green Consultation Submission
Middlemore Road Consultation Submission
By way of background, the National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP), who represent the interests of postmasters and postmistresses are supporting the overall review. The NFSP want the NCP to go ahead, as at least this will be managed change, rather than leaving us with ad hoc closures, as happened when the Tories were in Government. In the NFSP’s view, the alternative to the NCP is mass unplanned Post Office closures. Under the NCP there will be minimum access standards and the Government is putting in additional money to ensure agreed standards of service.
As well as my joint submission to the Post Office consultation, I have also made a submission to the Independent Review of the Postal Services Sector that was set up by the Government to examine the impacts of liberalisation of the UK postal services. A copy of my letter is printed below.
One issue is how the Government and Post Office Ltd plan to use the Post Office Network to deliver key services and new products, which will be vital if the Network is to become sustainable. I strongly criticised the BBC over their decision to take the issuing of TV licences away from post offices. Contrary to poular perception, this was not a Government decision. Therefore I am asking the people running our local post offices what ideas they have for additional Government business they could take on.
For its part, since 1999, the Government has invested over £2bn in the Post Office network, including £480m for the Horizon Project to bring modern computer systems into every post office in the country for the first time - enabling Post Office Ltd to launch a range of new products and to open its counters to potentially over 20 million bank customers. Most of the rest has been for the support of post offices in rural and deprived urban areas. There will be a further investment of £1.7bn up to 2011. Though the Tories criticise post office closures, they haven’t said they would put any additional money into the network, nor how they would finance what is planned if their own policy of cutting public expenditure were to take place.
I hope that constituents that have the opportunity will respond to the public consultation and I would also encourage constituents to make good use of our post offices. I would particularly recommend the use of the Post Office Card account for benefit payments!
Letter for the Independent Review of the Postal Services Sector
24 April 2008
I am writing to register my support for the points made by Royal Mail and the key proposals outlined by the CWU in their submissions to the Independent Review of the Postal Services Sector.
I am concerned that Royal Mail’s overall financial situation is increasingly fragile and that falling profits and declining mail volumes, coupled with the fact that it has one of the UK’s biggest unfunded pension deficits, is making it difficult to survive in an increasingly competitive market place.
It is my understanding that Royal Mail is facing a number of challenges that are the result of over regulation, including regulation to such a degree that it is forced to provide unprofitable services. For example, the creation by Postcomm of the ‘access headroom’ rule has contributed to the rapid decline in Royal Mail’s market share. The decision to give rivals guaranteed margins, means that Royal Mail can never be competitive no matter how efficient it becomes.
The ‘access agreements’ have allowed rival companies to cherry pick the most profitable contracts and, once they have accessed the market, they give the items back to Royal Mail to deliver, which in real terms means the Royal Mail loses up to 2p on each item it handles in this way. Royal Mail needs to be able to charge its rivals a fair price for this ‘final mile’ service.
Postcomm decided to liberalise the postal services at a faster pace than was required by the EU and the results have had a damaging impact on Royal Mail. I am very concerned that in the future, the company will struggle to maintain its universal postal service obligation, which is an important and essential public service.
Furthermore, I am also opposed to any further extension of post office closures, which will withdraw services, which elderly and vulnerable members of society need most. The National Federation of SubPostmasters warned recently that thousands more post offices face closure if the government awards the Post Office card account contract currently held by Royal Mail to the private sector. This further loss of key post office functions would be a terrible blow after the decision of the BBC to withdraw TV licence payment arrangements from post offices, a decision I strongly criticised at the time.
I should be grateful for confirmation that this letter will be considered.
LYNNE JONES MP
Click here to see letters I have written to Ministers at the DWP and BERR about Post Offices and the Post Office Card Account (POCA)
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