Protect the Post Office

Gavin Strang MP has accepted an invitation to address the Edinburgh and Lothian members of the National Federation of Subpostmasters and Postmistresses about their concerns about the impact upon their businesses of Automated Credit Transfer for benefit payments. The meeting will be held at 7.30pm on Monday 12 June at the Old Waverley Hotel, Edinburgh.

Speaking in advance of the meeting, Gavin Strang said:

‘From the tiny village to the inner city, our local Post Offices play a vital social and economic role.

‘The Post Office is currently facing many challenges.

‘Postmasters are worried that they will not survive the loss of Benefits Agency work, once the majority of benefits are paid by Automated Credit Transfer.

‘To start with, the scale of these concerns was perhaps not fully recognised.

‘But I believe that the Government are now determined to secure the future for the local post office. And National Federation of Postmasters’ General Secretary, Colin Baker now says ‘we took our vision to Government and we were delighted to see that the Government has returned to us with the very same vision and wanting to work with us to achieve it’.

‘The question now is how to deliver this shared vision of a thriving, modern post office network.

‘I see three major opportunities for the Post Office.

· The Post Office as the Government’s local deliverer. I have always thought that the local post office should be an access point for people for as many government services as possible. The Government is committed to provide all government services on-line by 2005. The Post Office should become a gateway for the delivery of these services.

· The Post Office must take advantage of the opportunity of Information Technology. Perhaps people could go to their local post office to access the internet. Minister Alan Johnson has suggested that Post Offices could become places for customers to order and pay for goods over the internet and where they collect their products once they have arrived.

· Thirdly, we must broaden the range of commercial services offered to people at their local post office. The Post Office has already won banking business from the Coop Bank, LloydsTSB and Barclays. The Government are also very keen that the Post Office develop a Universal Bank. This would help address the problems of financial exclusion in our society.

‘There is an obligation upon government, and upon the Post Office itself, to ensure this country has a thriving network of local post offices.
‘I pledge that I will do all that I can to help.’