Post Offices and the Post Office Card Account (POCA)

Below are copies of letters I sent to BERR and the DWP in July 2008:

Letter to Pat McFadden MP


Pat McFadden MP

Minister of State
Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
1 Victoria Street

London

SW1H 0ET


Our Reference:           MIN/C0822/KB
Date:                            23 July 2008


Dear Pat,

Post Offices

Prior to the publication of the Birmingham stage of the Network Change proposals on 24 June, I wrote to the sub-postmasters in my constituency to try to find out whether they had any concerns about the future of their Post Office and if they had any suggestions for expanding their business.  All those who responded were happy with the living they were able to make out of their business, though there was concern about future business retention.  However, there was strong support for growing new services.  For example, increasing the range of foreign currencies available on demand and expanding banking services.  It was pointed out that the Post Office already provide some services for a number of the major banks, but there are still some banks such as Nat West and HSBC who have not joined up.  The view was expressed that the Government should intervene to encourage more banks to give their customers the opportunity to use Post Office outlets.

I believe it is vital that the Government does everything possible to support post offices.  Yet this does not always appear to be the case.  For example, the Department for Work and Pensions has written to Post Office Card Account-holders advising them they will need to take out bank accounts in order to receive benefits beyond 2010 when the current contract with Post Office Ltd expires.  I am dismayed that this letter did not mention the fact that a replacement for the current card account is currently out to tender, or make any mention of other Post Office products or services.  I believe that this attempt to encourage people to switch their accounts from post offices to banks will damage the Post Office Network and lead to unnecessary closures, thus withdrawing services that elderly and vulnerable members of society need most.  That is why I have supported Early Day Motion 2008, a copy of which I have appended to this letter.  I am, of course, also raising this matter with James Plaskitt, relevant minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, with whom I assume you are liaising over post office services.

Specifically with regard to the Post Office Card Account, I enclose an example of one of 32 postcards I have so far received from constituents, calling for the continued availability of the new card account at the Post Office.  The postcard campaign expresses concern that the loss of the card account will force 3,000 more post offices to close and refers to Early Day Motion 1506, which I have also signed.  A copy of the EDM, which urges the Government to award the successor product to the Post Office, is also appended.

Of course I realise that the Government cannot commit itself in advance of the tendering procedure to award the contract to a particular supplier.  However, there are various factors mentioned in the two motions, referred to above, which should be taken into account when assessing the tender.  For reasons given in the EDMs, Post Office Ltd is well placed to deliver the replacement to the Post Office Card Account.  It is vital that regard is given to social factors, such as convenience and the necessity of maintaining the important community role of post offices, including that fulfilled as an “anchor” to other services, each reinforcing the other’s viability.  I therefore hope that, in determining the outcome of the tendering exercise, decisions will not be taken for short-term financial gain by one Department that would have costs for the rest of central and local government.  I myself currently have a post office card account into which my Child Benefit payments are made.  I will cease to receive these payments next month but I very much hope to be able to continue using such an account to receive my State Retirement Pension in four years time!

I should be grateful if you would carefully consider all the points made in this letter and let me have your response.

Yours sincerely,

LYNNE JONES MP

 


Letter to James Plaskitt MP

James Plaskitt MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State
Department for Work and Pensions
4th Floor, Caxton House
Tothill Street

London

SW1H 2NS

 

Our Reference:           MIN/C0822/KB
Date:                            31 July 2008

 
Dear James,

Successor to the Post Office Card Account

I am writing to you with regard to the successor product to the Post Office Card Account, which is currently out to tender.  It is my understanding that the Department for Work and Pensions will shortly announce who has been awarded the contract and I am writing to emphasise the importance of not simply awarding the contract to the lowest bidder.

You will already be aware of Early Day Motion 1506, which urges the Government to award the successor product to the Post Office.  A copy of this motion, which I have signed, is appended for ease of reference.   I also enclose an example of one of 34 postcards I have so far received from constituents, calling for the continued availability of the new card account at the Post Office.  The postcard campaign expresses concern that the loss of the card account will force 3,000 more post offices to close. 

Wider Government objectives

I feel strongly that any decision the DWP makes on this issue will have wider implications for other Government departments. The viability of the Post Office Network will depend, in part, upon its future business retention, and the decision to award the contract to another company would run counter to wider Government objectives.  It is vital that regard is given to social factors, such as convenience and the necessity of maintaining the important community role of post offices, including that fulfilled as an “anchor” to other services, each reinforcing the other’s viability.  I therefore hope that, in determining the outcome of the tendering exercise, decisions will not be taken for short-term financial gain by one Department that would have costs for the rest of central and local government. 

Letter to Post Office Card Account-holders

I was very concerned to learn that the DWP has written to Post Office Card Account-holders advising them they will need to take out bank accounts in order to receive benefits beyond 2010 when the current contract with Post Office Ltd expires.  I am dismayed that this letter did not mention the fact that a replacement for the current card account is currently out to tender, or make any mention of other Post Office products or services.   I believe that this attempt to encourage people to switch their accounts from post offices to banks will damage the Post Office Network and lead to unnecessary closures, thus withdrawing services that elderly and vulnerable members of society need most.  That is why I have supported Early Day Motion 2008, a copy of which I have also appended to this letter.  I am, of course, also raising this matter with Pat McFadden, relevant minister at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, with whom I assume you are liaising over post office services.

Post Office Ltd is well placed to deliver the replacement to the Post Office Card Account.  Of course I realise that the Government cannot commit itself in advance of the tendering procedure to award the contract to a particular supplier.  However, there are various factors mentioned in the two motions, referred to above, which should be taken into account when assessing the tender.  I myself currently have a post office card account into which my Child Benefit payments are made.  I will cease to receive these payments next month but I very much hope to be able to continue using such an account to receive my State Retirement Pension in four years time!

I should be grateful if you would carefully consider all the points made in this letter and let me have your response.

Yours sincerely,

 

LYNNE JONES MP

 


EDMs

EDM 2008

RENEWAL OF THE POST OFFICE CARD ACCOUNT

That this House notes with concern the fact that the Department for Work and Pensions has written to Post Office card account holders informing them that the Post Office card account contract ends in 2010; further notes that Post Office card account holders, many of whom have made a conscious decision to support the Post Office by retaining their card account, are being instructed to take out bank accounts in order to receive benefits beyond 2010; expresses its dismay at the fact that the letter does not mention the fact that a replacement for the current card account is currently out to tender, or make any mention of other Post Office products or services; believes that this is a deliberate attempt to encourage people to switch payment to direct debit and remove the role of the Post Office; notes the additional damage inflicted on the Post Office by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, who are currently sending out licence renewal reminders as part of a communications campaign which makes no mention of the Post Office; calls on Ministers in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to encourage Ministers in the Department for Work and Pensions to consider the impact on communities across the country if the Post Office card account is not renewed; and encourages all Government departments to make their services available through post offices in order to ensure that they have a viable future.

 

EDM 1506

POST OFFICE CARD ACCOUNT

That this House notes that over four million people chose to use the Post Office Card Account (POCA) and that these transactions earn the Post Office 200 million each year; is aware that the Government will soon announce its decision on which company shall operate the successor product to the POCA from 2010; recognises that the Post Office is best placed to provide this service because of its unrivalled geographical reach, its status as a trusted brand and its ability to offer customers a seamless transition; believes that retaining the successor of the POCA as a Post Office product is essential to the viability of the Post Office network following the Network Change Programme; and in this context urges the Government to award the successor product to the Post Office.

 

For further information on Post Offices click here

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