Concern Continues as Local MSP Marks National PO Week
The crucial role of post offices in local communities is being highlighted in Parliament by Highlands and Islands Green MSP Dr Eleanor Scott to mark National Post Office Week (February 19-23). (1) Dr Scott has challenged Executive ministers to come out fighting on behalf of Scottish post offices in the current Westminster consultation, part of a review which is widely expected to result in cuts in subsidy support for small and remote post offices.
Green argue that post offices, rural, suburban and urban, are key to strengthening communities and local economies, and that vulnerable people and small businesses will suffer should the network be scaled back.
A recent Postwatch Scotland survey highlights how post offices play a crucial role in providing a hub for community services and activities, often in tandem with the only shop in a community. (2) A cut in subsidy support would put the future of the post office at risk and threaten viability of the shop – an unacceptable double whammy for the community, especially the elderly, disabled and poor.
Dr Scott said, “The valuable lifeline function of many post offices, particularly in rural areas, must be taken into account and argued for by the Scottish Executive in negotiations with Westminster. The potential of post offices to play out their role at the heart of communities also depends on the commitment of other government departments to allow them to continue delivering a wide range of services, such as vehicle tax renewal and purchase of TV licences.
“If POs close, many of our rural communities and villages will turn into faceless dormitory towns, with increased housing, but very few services. This will force people with cars to travel considerable distances to access goods and services, and make it difficult or impossible for the disadvantaged, particularly the elderly, disabled and poor to access lifeline financial and postal services.
“This issue also threatens urban areas. Research has shown that each urban post office saves small businesses around £270,000 every year through the services they provide. They also help keep the local area vibrant, stimulating business for smaller enterprises. There are some urban areas of Highlands and Islands which could be adversely affected by Post Office closures. In National Post Office Week, ministers should reassure us that they are speaking up for Scottish post offices.
“Though Westminster has indicated that some POs in rural and remote areas may be protected from closure, the consultation document does not clearly define ‘rural’ or ‘remote’, making it difficult to identify post offices that may be at risk. We already have a problem with lack of access to services throughout region: the DTI has yet to allay fears that that situation isn’t about to get worse.”
That the Scottish Parliament:
welcomes National Post Office Week (19–23 February) which aims to highlight and campaign against the Westminster government plans to close approximately 2500 post office across the UK, several hundred of which will be in Scotland; Congratulates the coalition of groups behind the campaign including Age Concern, Citizens Advice, Communication Workers Union, Countryside Alliance, Local Works, National Federation of SubPostmasters, National Pensioners Convention, Royal National Institute of the Blind and the Townswomen’s Guilds; strongly believes that an accessible post office network in urban, suburban, and rural areas is vital to the future of vibrant communities and sustainable local economies; notes research by the New Economics Foundation that each urban post office saves small businesses around £270,000 every year; encourages all interested parties to respond to the current DTi Post Office Network Consultation that runs until the 8th of March 2007; and also calls on the Scottish Executive to do everything in its power to oppose the proposed cuts in the Scottish post office network.