Managing the Post Office into decline

25 October, 2007

OK, so people in rural villages in Argyll will be reassured by Tuesday’s announcement, but there are still many elderly people who will be left inconvenienced by the closure of 7 Post Offices in our towns.

It’s not just the relationship that the more vulnerable in our society build with their local sub-postmaster/postmistress, (although that, in itself, can make the difference between companionship and long-term lonliness), it is the help and advice that is available to those who have difficulty with our ever-increasing bureaucracy.

How ironic that, in the week that Channel 4 focuses on the 25% of our 11-year olds who leave primary school illiterate, it will be adults with reading difficulties who stand to lose most from these closures: few of them have access to the internet, let alone the confidence to carry out business online; many shy away from telephone banking for the same reason.

For those who struggle with literacy, their local, trusted sub-post office can be a godsend: somewhere where they can get help with form filling without having to ask a stranger.

Talking to sub-postmasters and postmistresses recently, what unites them all is the sense of grievance that this government has taken away all of their business, but refused to replace it with anything else.

Take TV licences. No longer available from Post Offices. That in itself is bad enough, but not to allow Post Offices to install PayPoint outlets, which have replaced the Post Office as the alternative means of buying a licence, is the outside of enough.

I note, with interest, that the TV licensing website mentions that PayPoint is available in “newsagents, convenience stores, supermarkets, post offices and petrol stations”, but the Post Offices I have spoken to have all been denied the opportunity to install PayPoint.

 We must ensure that crucial services – like our Post Offices – are no longer managed into decline by this relentlessly metropolitan Labour government.

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