Discussion Forum

Erosion of Post Office Provision

Posted by Christine Bampton-Smith
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

A new blow to those of us who consider that Post Offices are essential to a Community, especially a Rural Community. Now they will no longer be able to sell TV Licences. Add to this the removal of the Post Office Account Card in the near future, and the ability to buy Tax Discs online - struggling small Post Offices will find life even harder. Weren't we promised by the Government that Post Office closures would be reduced!!!

Posted by Rev Tony Buglass
Monday, August 14, 2006

I agree, Christine - I have always paid my TV licence, car tax, etc through the local post office because I believe it to be a very important component of local community.

However, this doesn't appear to be a governemnt decision, but is due to the BBC - a letter in the press this week defended the decision on the grounds that the new network is cheaper than the Post Office, has more outlets than the PO, and will save the Beeb millions of pounds, which they promise to spend on great new programmes.

Well, believe that if you want, but the bottom line is that another local service is dying a slow death cut by cut. I understand the need for proper economies, but I do question whether cheaper is necessarily better. Sometimes service is more important than profit.

From Barbara Green
Sunday, September 3, 2006

Dear Mr Fitzpatrick,

Chris McCafferty has kindly forwarded to me your letter of 9th August (Ref: GG/589946). This was in response to my letter to her complaining about the ending of payment of TV licence fees at post offices.

Your letter is a shameful document but at least you have dispensed with the sickening hypocrisy that characterised the correspondence I had with the Department of Work and Pensions on the subject of the withdrawal in 2008/10 of the Post Office Card Account facility. That department insisted that their first thought was always for the well being of pensioners and their overriding concern was to be sensitive to their wishes. Your letter, by contrast, is brutally frank. This neo-Thatcherite government believes that market forces rule at all times and social considerations come a long way down its list of priorities – in fact, almost a case of “there is no such thing as society.”

Allow me to deal with such points as you make. You state that people are not using Post Offices as much as they once did. In the case of our village post office and Hebden Bridge Post Office, this is quite untrue. Our post office is at the heart of village life. Without it the village would become a mere commuter dormitory. Our many elderly villagers would feel utterly bereft by its closure. We all insisted on having Post Office Card accounts to make sure that we could continue to collect our pensions from our post office, in spite of strenuous efforts by the Government to persuade us to have them paid into bank accounts.

Life is not exclusively about cost effectiveness. It is about living in a caring, mutually supportive society, a concept post war socialist governments readily accepted as being of paramount importance.

I also find it difficult to believe that the BBC, licensing authority or not, could not have been persuaded to allow those who wished to pay their TV licences at their local post offices to continue to do so. Why should the BBC care how the licence fee is collected, provided they receive the revenue?

It seems more likely that this uncaring, commercially motivated government simply took no steps to intervene in the decision. Indeed, it is more than likely they were a willing party to it.

In the long term the best humanitarian deal for the public, particularly its oldest members, is to ensure that post offices do not close. That means hat postmasters must continue to receive the income they derive from the issuing of TV licences and the payment of pensions.

As for the delivery of services via the internet, there are hundreds and thousands of elderly people who do not understand the internet and have no wish at their age to get with grips with its intricacies. They want the warmth of face to face contact with one another and with a friendly postmaster who, as in our case, is always willing to help them with those endless, impenetrable communications from officialdom.

Whatever grudging support the government has given to rural post offices in the past, it is obviously going to be withdrawn just as soon as ministers deem that they can get away with it. It simply is not good enough or true to say repeatedly that post offices are underused, and it will continue to be untrue as long as there is a preponderance of old people in the population, as there is now. As long as this is the case, rural post offices, in particular, will continue to play a crucial part in our elderly lives.

If the government can contemplate the spending of £25 billion on updating Trident, in direct contravention of our international obligations under the European non-proliferation treaty, and yet more billions on an illegal war embarked upon the basis of bare faced lies, it ill becomes you to cavil at the use of tax payers; money for more worthwhile and socially desirable expenditure.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Green