The truth about local post office closures

Many people have received a letter sent from a former post-mistress and Tory Councillor candidate regarding the closure of local post offices.

What a lot of people don’t realise is this highly misleading letter was sent and paid for by the local Conservative Party.

The truth is:

  • I worked very hard to save our area’s Post Offices.
  • At no point did I vote to close any of our local Post Offices.
  • There was not a vote in the House of Commons on whether or not Post Offices should be closed.
  • The Tories said at the time “we fully expect the [Post Office] network to shrink in size. We have never given a guarantee that no post offices will close.”
I believe Post Office Ltd’s decision to close our local Post Offices was a mistake.

I do of course have great sympathy with all those postmasters and mistresses effected by the closures, and I was disappointed and angry that her Post Office was marked for closure. However, the accusation that I “betrayed our community” is just not true and I am saddened that local Tories see fit to mislead the public in this way.

The letter both misrepresents the vote in the House of Commons and the interaction between local and national policy. I worked very hard to save our local Post Offices and would like to explain my position below: The vote referred to in the letter you received was not a vote on whether or not Post Offices should be closed. MPs had the option of two motions: a Conservative Motion  which would not have saved a single Post Office. It only delayed the process, which would ultimately cost the taxpayer and the Post Office Network more and could have led to even more Post Offices closing; and a Motion which called on the Government to continue working with the Post Office to ensure a viable and sustainable network for the future. I voted for the latter.

I have pasted the text of both Motions below so you can see for yourself. During the debate on these Motions, Alan Duncan MP, then Conservative Shadow Secretary of State for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform set out Tory policy, saying: “Let me make it clear that we fully expect the network to shrink in size. We have never given a guarantee that no post offices will close.”

It is disingenuous of the local Conservative Party to pretend otherwise.

The Tories had a huge amount of time and plenty of opportunities to make genuine proposals on maintaining the current size of the network if this is what they wanted. They didn’t. This is not surprising.

The Network was making huge, unsustainable losses and there was widespread agreement that some Post Offices would have to close.  In 2007, the Post Office Network lost £174million, which is just not sustainable.
It’s worth noting thousands more Post Offices would have been threatened if it had not been for the Government’s £150 million annual subsidy. Labour introduced this subsidy because we recognise the value of local Post Offices. It did not exist under the Tories.

The question was: which Post Offices should close? The lengthy submission I made in defence of our local Post Offices argued that they are popular and successful, and play a vital role in the communities they serve.  This is not true of Post Offices around the country. I continue to believe that Post Office Ltd’s analysis of the Post Office services in Tooting was flawed, and that their decision to go ahead with the closures ignored the needs of the local community. 

However, there is no conflict of interest between supporting local Post Offices in our community and at the same time accepting that the national Post Office Network is unsustainable in its current state and closures need to be made.

Text of Motions:

“That this House “recognises the vital social and economic role of post offices, in particular in rural and deprived urban communities; notes the decline in post office customer numbers in recent years and the financial losses of £174 million incurred by the network in 2007; further recognises the effect of changes such as direct debit facilities and increased use of the internet for payment and communication; commends the Government’s action to support the post office network with investment of up to £1.7 billion up until 2011, including an annual subsidy of £150 million; further notes that this subsidy did not exist under the last government and that without it thousands more post offices would be under threat; and urges the Government to continue working with Post Office Limited to ensure a viable and sustainable network for the future.”.

“That this House regrets the proposal to close up to 2,500 post offices; recognises the vital role post offices play in local communities; notes the concern and unpopularity amongst the general public of closing such a large portion of the network; has concerns that the access criteria laid down for the closures consultation do not adequately take into account local geographical factors and public transport networks; is concerned that the consultation period is only for six weeks rather than three months, as recommended by Cabinet Office guidelines; believes that post offices must move with the times in the services they offer and that options for business expansion and developing business opportunities with local authorities should be explored further; and calls upon the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to instruct Post Office Limited to suspend the compulsory closure of sub-post offices while these issues are re-assessed.”
Promoted by DJ Bellamy on behalf of Sadiq Khan and Tooting Labour Party, all at 273 Balham High Road, London, SW17 7BD.
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