Today the House of Commons debates Post Office closures. 4,000 Post Offices have already closed under Labour – that’s a quarter of the country’s Post Office network. A Further 2,500 Post Offices are expected to close by 2009.
Yesterday, David Cameron joined me in Fulham to try to save the Kenyon Street Post Office, which serves a large number of elderly residents in particular. The post office is profitable, and the sub postmistress wants it to stay open.
Post offices are the lifeblood of any community, in urban areas too. They are vital local institutions, just like a local school or pub. Post Offices are essential for people who rely on them to collect benefits and pensions. Local business rely on Post Offices, neighbouring small businesses often suffer a drop in trade.
So what would we do about Post Offices? We would give sub-Post Offices more freedom to offer a wider range of business services; push for more Post Offices to be “One Stop Shops” – trained staff 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 etc; encourage local Councils to open “Council Counters” in local branches or put Post Offices in Council-run facilities like local libraries..
The vote tonight will be interesting to see how many Labour MPs put their party politics to one side and back the Conservative motion to suspend the closure programme.