Thank you for your time on the phone on Friday.
I appreciate your concerns regarding Perth Road Post Office closure for refurbishment and would like to assure you that we have made every effort to keep the closure period at Perth Road to an absolute minimum considering the amount of refurbishment work to be carried out. As discussed, there are alternative Post Office branches which can be accessed within a reasonable distance of Perth Road branch therefore in this case a temporary service would not be a possibility. A temporary service is normally set up when there is to be a prolonged closure of a branch or if the nearest alternative branch is a considerable distance away and takes quite some time to implement.
The planned refurbishments will result in a much improved customer experience with longer opening hours and a new more modern branch. The aim of our modernisation programme is to enable the Post Office to invest in and ensure the long term sustainability of the current branch network and I am sure this investment and subsequent improvement in Perth Rd branch will be welcomed by our customers.
We do understand that there may be some elderly or less able customers who may be more inconvenienced than others while the branch is closed and we apologise for any inconvenience which may be experienced however we do notify customers in advance of the closure in order to allow them to make alternative arrangements during this period.
The Post Office Website www.postoffice.co.uk provides information on products and services which may be helpful for customers.
…whilst the modernisation is excellent news, it is disappointing that there will be no temporary service given the number of elderly people who will find the distance to alternative Post Offices a challenge.
The City Council did provide a temporary library service in a nearby church hall when a similar situation affected the local library last year and its is therefore disappointing that Post Office Limited could not consider this.
The suggestion by Danny Alexander MP that public buildings such as libraries should be considered for use as outreach services for Jobcentre Plus appears to me to make a whole lot of sense. (See http://news.scotsman.com/scotland/Library-39outreach39-proposal-for-Jobcentres.4840598.jp to read the story in today’s Scotsman).
He points out that there is no reason that Jobcentre Plus services cannot be provided in places such as community centres and council buildings.
The 2004 Government Spending Review announced an efficiency savings programme which planned to reduce the numbers of Jobcentre Plus staff by around 14 per cent and lead to dramatic changes in the way Jobcentre Plus delivered its services
The new standard operating model for claiming benefits introduced the telephone as the main route for applying for and contacting Jobcentre Plus about benefit claims. Benefit processing was centralised into a smaller number of large processing centres, resulting in reduced face to face service for claimants in local offices. Citizens Advice’s evidence on the new system for claiming benefits from Jobcentre Plus said,
“The most vulnerable claimants, homeless people and those with mental health, learning or other disabilities have suffered the worst as local office support has decreased and alternatives to phone contact have been refused.” (See http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/campaigns/policy_campaign_publications/evidence_reports/er_benefitsandtaxcredits/er_not_getting_through to view the full report).
Although, in November, the government decided to abandon plans to close more Jobcentre Plus offices, the “outreach” proposal would help to plug gaps in the Jobcentre Plus network – it should be remembered that the ‘rationalisation programme’ was handled in a haphazard ill-conceived fashion.
In my view, consideration should also be given to having some Jobcentre Plus services and advice surgeries at suitable local Post Offices. During the unsuccessful campaign to try to save four Dundee Post Offices last year, many of us made the point that having additional services at local Post Offices would help secure their future. Having some Jobcentre Plus services at sub post offices would not only achieve this, but would also make job centre services more readily available and plug some of the gaps in the service.
Yesterday’s ‘Courier’ covered my concerns about the deterimental effect on queuing at the GPO following the closure of 4 Dundee Post Offices, including those at Lochee Road and Nethergate. See http://www.thecourier.co.uk/output/2008/11/01/newsstory12183144t0.asp to view.
Early yesterday morning, I got a call from a lady in the Paton’s Lane area to complain that she had had to wait 45 minutes in the queue at Perth Road Post Office last week. You are not trying to tell me that Post Office Limited properly researched the effects of their Post Office closures on adjacent Post Offices!
Here’s the news release I issued about the issue :
NEWS RELEASE : Councillor slams Post Office Limited over erroneous claims about Post Offices
Dundee City Councillor for the West End, Cllr Fraser Macpherson, today said he has written to Adam Crozier, Chief Executive of Post Office Limited, criticising ‘completely misleading assurances’ that the Dundee’s General Post Office had the capacity to deal with increased customers as a result of Post Office Limited’s recent closure of four other Dundee Post Offices and calling for the Post Office’s evidence that customer waiting times would not be detrimentally affected to be made public.
Cllr Macpherson was reacting to constituents’ complaints about the length of waiting time in the GPO during peak hours. Cllr Macpherson said, “The staff at the GPO do an excellent job but the bottom line is that the Post Office’s assurances that closing Post Offices in Nethergate and Lochee Road would not result in longer waiting times at Ward Road has been shown to be false. It appears that increased staffing at peak times has not been provided – no-one should have to wait the length of time constituents are rightly complaining about.
“Dundee City Council has recently been advised by Consumer Focus, the successor to Post Office watchdog Postwatch, that Post Office Limited “submitted a detailed action plan … demonstrating how the alternative branches would cope with an influx in custom” and I think its about time that this so-called ‘evidence’ was publicly available, because it is clear from what has actually happened since the Post Office closures, that there are increased waiting times at the GPO. Post Office Limited gave us assurances that this wouldn’t happen but the reality is that it has. I want to know what the Chief Executive of Post Office Limited is going to do to ensure that customer waiting times at peak hours are improved. Constituents have complained about 25-35 minutes waiting time, which is completely unacceptable.”
Cllr Macpherson said that the City Council had written to Postwatch to attempt to stop the Post Office closures, as Postwatch had powers in terms of a Memorandum of Understanding with Post Office Limited allowing it to request a suspension of closures where Post Office Limited had not fully considered all evidence presented against a proposed closure. The City Council had made clear that there had not been transparency from Post Office Limited on whether or not it fully considered the information on potential for customer growth at one Post Office – Nethergate -and in light of that, a suspension of the closure should have been sought by Postwatch.
Cllr Macpherson continued, “The City Council sought a review of the consultation exercise and also a fuller statement of reasons from Post Office Limited that properly addressed the substance of the relevant and material issues raised by the Council’s representation. Unfortunately, Consumer Focus, the successor to Postwatch, has been unwilling to do this because it says ‘We are reassured that with appropriate staffing … the alternative post offices can accommodate the anticipated additional customers.’ The assurances given to Consumer Focus have proved to be pretty worthless – the lengthy waiting times are proof of this – and it is extremely disappointing that the so-called “Post Office Watchdog” has proved to be so toothless in reality.
“By being unwilling to act to suspend Post Office closures, Consumer Focus is failing to protect customers from increased waiting times.”
Cllr Macpherson said that, following the feedback from Consumer Focus received by the City Council, he has met with Council legal officers to see if separate legal action by the Council should be pursued, but, having reviewed the legal position, the Council’s solicitors have advised that this would be unlikely to bear fruit, in part because of the lack of supportiveness by the watchdog but also, specifically, given the situation that the Post Office, once part of the public sector, has been recreated by Government as a limited company, rendering it highly unlikely that any judicial review of its closure decisions would succeed.
Cllr Macpherson continued, “The Council’s legal officers have reviewed other legal attempts to stop Post Office closures, including an attempt by the Greater London Authority and the London Mayor, and concluded that there were no reasonable prospects of successfully challenging these decisions. The whole consultation process lacked transparency and Post Office Limited has given assurances to Postwatch’s successor that have been shown to be inaccurate.
“I have therefore contacted the Chief Executive of Post Office Limited asking what steps he will be taking to ensure waiting times at the GPO are cut to be satisfactory at all times of opening. I think that is the least we can reasonably expect from Post Office Limited, especially given the complaints from the Dundee public about waiting for around half an hour to be served.”
A busy day Monday and apart from an awful lot of day job work starting very early morning – I have a large conference to organise coming up fast! – it included the following :
* Interview with Wave 102 about moves towards local television in Dundee and Tayside/Fife as a whole. You can hear this by following this link : http://www.dundeewestend.com/2008/08/busy-monday.html
*Meetings with the Council Leader and the Director of Planning & Transportation about a number of issues. I also spoke at the City Council’s Recess Sub-Committee, backing the report to allow the continuation of a bus service for users of the 72 in the West End and 69 in Broughty Ferry. I am pleased to say the report was unanimously agreed.
* I am to be on STV news at 6pm tonight to speak about the latest situation on Post Office closures and my request that City Council legal officers investigate the viability of a legal challenge to the four Dundee Post Office closures.
News yesterday in the press that the long-awaited decision on the Post Office Card Account (see http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/769360?UserKey=0) has been put off until later in the year fuels the uncertainty over the future of the Post Office network.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had been due to reveal last month which organisation would get the contract for what is now the Post Office Card Account but has now put off the decision until later in the year.
DWP has given no reason as to why it is delaying the announcement but as yesterday’s Press and Journal points out, “…the department would have risked a political furore if it had announced the decision while MPs were on holiday.”
It is vital that Post Office Limited retains this business. The fact that the announcement of the decision on the contract has been postponed to avoid a political furore does not bode well in terms of what that decision may be.
The Labour Government has lost the trust of the people. Properly securing the future of the Post Office network, overturning post office closure decisions and helping to secure Post Office Limited’s future by removing uncertainty over the Post Office Card Account contract would go some way towards showing the public that the government is listening. Don’t hold your breath.
NEWS RELEASE : Possible legal challenge to Post Office closures
Dundee City Councillor for the West End, Councillor Fraser Macpherson, tonight revealed that he has been in talks with a senior City Council legal officer about the potential viability of mounting a legal challenge to the decision by Post Office Limited to close four Dundee Post Offices, including two in his own West End ward at Nethergate and Lochee Road.
Cllr Macpherson said that he had today had discussions with a senior City Council officer who was now investigating the viability of a challenge to Post Office Limited’s closure decision.
Cllr Macpherson said, “I believe the so called “consultation process” over the closure proposals was little more than a sham and having now Post Office Limited’s “Area Plan Decision Booklet – North East, Tayside & Fife” which supposedly justifies the decision to close particular Post Offices, I am increasingly convinced that we should not take their decision lying down and at least investigate all avenues in terms of the potential viability of mounting a legal challenge.
“I think the consultation process was fatally flawed, partly in relation to the inappropriately short consultation period of just six weeks. Although the Greater London Authority’s recent attempt to force judicial review in relation to London Post Office closures was rejected by the High Court, what has become clear is that the Cabinet Office’s own guidance states that 12 weeks minimum is good practice for public consultations and therefore Post Office Limited’s six week consultation falls far short of such good practice.
“Furthermore, as another example of the flawed consultation process, in respect of one Post Office (Nethergate in Dundee) – I and others objecting to the closure, including the City Council’s own objection, gave Post Office Limited clear, specific, evidence about customer growth in the future. In its decision booklet, Post Office Limited dismisses this evidence in just one sentence – “Information was also received on several new developments being planned in the area.”
“There is absolutely no explanation as to how Post Office Limited dealt with this evidence and why it dismissed it. In attempting to justify the closure in its decision booklet, Post Office Limited confines its comments to the accessibility issues of the nearest alternative Post Offices. It appears scant – if any – regard has been taken to the evidence presented to it, calling into question the appropriateness of the consultation process,” he continued.
Cllr Macpherson said that, on receipt of the Post Office Limited decision booklet, he immediately wrote to Sally Buchanan, Post Office Limited’s Network Development Manager, asking why the evidence of potential customer growth at Nethergate Post Office was given such scant mention in the decision booklet and why Post Office Limited appears to have ignored or overlooked that evidence. He has also contacted Professor Alan Alexander, Chair of Postwatch Scotland, the independent watchdog for postal services, about the issue.
Cllr Macpherson concluded, “At this stage it is difficult to say whether or not a legal challenge to Post Office Limited would be viable or succeed, but it is important to seek clear legal advice on this matter. I am aware from past cases that several local authorities have successfully worked together on other matters of concern to their citizens and what is abundantly clear from the Post Office Limited decision earlier this week is that people right across the North East, Tayside and Fife are extremely concerned about the large number of Post Office closures right across the whole region.”
There has naturally be an expression of real disappointment from residents about the decision to close Lochee Road and Nethergate Post Offices. I have today written to the Prime Minister about the matter, in the following terms:
Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP
10 Downing Street
LONDON SW1A 2AA
Dear Prime Minister
I wish to express my deep concern at the handling of the issue of the future of Post Offices by your Government.
The further closure programme of at least 2500 post offices throughout the UK has now impacted upon my own ward in Dundee’s West End, where after a “consultation period” of just six weeks, Post Office Limited has confirmed the closure of two local Post Offices – Lochee Road and Nethergate – which are vital community assets, particularly for the elderly and less mobile. The so-called “alternative” Post Offices are not easily accessible in terms of both topography and public transport.
I am convinced that your Government’s post office closure programme will have a huge impact on the elderly and most vulnerable members of our community as well as hitting small businesses. It is surely an indictment of your Government’s own policy that even cabinet ministers are opposing the closures in their own constituencies – while supporting them for everyone else.
Post Offices are the lifeblood of communities in both rural and urban areas, particularly when they are combined with other services, such as the local shop. When the local post office closes other services often follow suit, which can be devastating for the community.
It is vital that the true social value of this network is included as well as its economic value when looking at the long-term future of this valuable network.
In my view there is a clear need for your Government to listen to the people on the issue of Post Office closures, reverse the current closure programme, and henceforth provide the real investment needed to protect the existing network at its current size.
In addition to existing Post Office services, I believe the network should have an additional main function as the shop front or one stop shop for public bodies and a point of call for information on public services.
A wide range of services should be available in branches throughout the network.
These could include payment of vehicle excise duty, passport checking, bureau de change, Government information services via computer terminals, banking and other financial services, developing the police’s trial scheme – reception points for reporting crime, anti-social behaviour etc. Sub post offices could also act as agencies for the sale of tickets for bus and train travel, theatres, cinemas and concerts and for adult education services.
You should ensure that the Post Office network is the cornerstone of the programme to provide every UK citizen with access to a basic bank account. Post offices can play a key part in financial inclusion – they want and need the additional trade that offering basic bank accounts would provide.
I would urge you to act immediately to end the Post Office closure programme and to provide the necessary investment to ensure that the Post Office network can be preserved and enhanced with its existing number of branches.
Cllr Fraser Macpherson
Convener of Planning & Transport
West End Ward
Dundee City Council
Wave 102 5pm news tonight …
NEWS RELEASE : Councillor slams “sham consultation” over Dundee Post Office Closures
Dundee City Council Planning & Transport Convener and West End Councillor, Fraser Macpherson, today slammed what he described as a “sham consultation” by Post Office Limited, which has resulted in the closure of four Dundee Post Offices.
Councillor Macpherson said he was in particular really concerned about the effect of the closures on elderly and people with mobility problems in his West End Ward, who will be affected by the loss of the Nethergate and Lochee Road Post Offices.
Cllr Macpherson said, “The so-called ‘consultation’ by Post Office Limited was nothing more than a sham. In the huge area of North East Scotland, Perthshire and Fife they are saving just three Post Offices – and none of the threatened ones in Dundee are to be saved. The consultation period was far too short and despite over 4000 objections to the closures across the region, it appears that Post Office Limited is more concerned with cutting vital services than listening to local people.
“Having spoken recently with the Postmaster at Nethergate Post Office, to suggest that his thriving Post Office is no longer viable flies in the face of the facts, and I am shocked at the destructiveness of Post Office Limited’s actions. To them it appears profits come before people and that is totally unacceptable.
“Ultimately, however, the finger of blame for the dire situation facing the Post Office network lies with the Westminster Labour Government, which has agreed to the closure of at least 2500 post offices throughout the UK. Labour’s post office closure programme is having a huge impact on the elderly and most vulnerable members of our community as well as hitting small businesses. It is a sorry state of affairs and I am deeply disappointed to learn of the decision affecting the threatened Dundee Post Offices,” he concluded.
As residents are well aware, there has been much local concern over Post Office Limited’s proposals to close four Dundee Post Offices. Many constituents in the West End have expressed their opposition to closing the Lochee Road and Nethergate Post Offices, both of which provide an invaluable service to local communities and, along with other city councillors, I have made clear my strong objections to the closure proposals.
The Royal Mail Scottish Press Office in Edinburgh confirmed to me today that an announcement is due on Wednesday regarding the four Dundee Post Offices and have further promised to e-mail me their announcement immediately it is made. I have reiterated the point that Post Office Limited should be listening to local communities and taking into full account the detailed evidence presented to them to make the case for keeping the Post Offices open.
The Royal Mail Scottish Press Office in Edinburgh confirmed to me today that an announcement is due on Wednesday regarding the four Dundee Post Offices and have further promised to e-mail me their announcement immediately it is made. I have reiterated the point that Post Office Limited should be listening to local communities and taking into full account the detailed evidence presented to them to make the case for keeping the Post Offices open.
On an unrelated matter, I was very concerned to learn about an incident in the lane that runs between Tait’s Lane and Peddie Street which took place late on Saturday evening, and in which a local women had her handbag snatched at knife point.
You can read the full story in tonight’s “Evening Telegraph” (click on the headline above to read this). As I said to the Tele, “Obviously, I’m concerned to learn about the incident and for the woman, who must have had a frightening experience. I should also say, however, that incidents of knife crime in the city are thankfully very limited.
“I urge anyone with information to contact Tayside Police on 0845 600 5705.”
Residents in the areas that the Nethergate and Lochee Road Post Offices serve have contacted me asking when Post Office Limited will make a decision about the future of the Post Offices that they have said are under threat. People are naturally concerned at the possible loss of their local post office and anxious to learn the outcome of the recent consultation process by Post Office Limited.
The consultation ended on 8th July and we have yet to hear further from Post Office Limited. One constituent advised me that she has been checking the Post Office website daily to see if there is any news update on the outcome but there has been no update since 8th July.
I have therefore written to Sally Buchanan, Network Development Manager at Post Office Limited, asking that the outcome of the consultation process and Post Office Limited’s final decisions are made known as a matter of urgency. I think Post Office Limited owes it to the affected communities to make its intentions known as soon as possible.
We also visited the Sound Sense project – click on headline to view more – which is doing superb work to help deaf people in Dundee, Angus and Perth & Kinross.
As part of Alison’s visit to Dundee, she visited Nethergate Post Office to meet the Postmaster, Mr Farhat Baig, and add her voice in support of the campaign to keep the vital Dundee Post Offices open. See photo (above right).
After her visit to Nethergate Post Office, Alison said, “I am very disappointed at the decision of Post Office Ltd to recommend closure of the four Dundee Post Offices at Lochee Road, Fairmuir, Broughty Ferry Road and Nethergate. All four provide a vital service for the communities they serve.
“It was very clear from my visit to Nethergate Post Office today that this Post Office is extremely busy and that the Postmaster has invested to improve the Post Office facilities. Mr Baig gave me detail of the continually improving sales at Nethergate Post Office and, with around 1200 customers every week, any suggestion of closing this Post Office makes no commercial sense for Post Office Ltd.
“I am strongly backing the campaign by local councillors and others in Dundee to save all four Post Offices and am writing to Post Office Ltd making clear my formal objection to the closure plans.”
I am pleased to say that the campaign to save the four Dundee Post Offices is really gathering momentum and getting support right across Dundee. In the West End, many residents have contacted me in support of the campaign.
At Nethergate Post Office, it is very clear that Mr Baig, the Postmaster, has built up an excellent business which is vital for the local community and with an increasing, not reducing, customer base, I think the case for keeping this Post Office open is very strong indeed.
We will be continuing the campaign to save the four Dundee Post Offices right up to the closing date for objections on 8th July and urge residents to make their feelings known to Post Office Ltd.
Dear Councillor Macpherson
Network Change Programme
Thank you for copying Postwatch Scotland into your correspondence regarding the proposed closures of Nethergate and Lochee Road Post Offices.
Regarding Nethergate Post Office you outline your concerns about the reasons for the proposal as it is an area which is going to grow significantly in the future.
Your correspondence with respect to Lochee Road outlines your particular concerns regarding the accessibility to alternative branches especially for vulnerable members of the community.
You also mention that you feel that both communities would receive a lower quality of service at other branches and that they would both be losing a vital service should these closures go ahead.
Postwatch Scotland’s focus will be on whether Post Office Ltd’s proposals meet the newly introduced minimum access criteria for post offices which aim to ensure communities are within a reasonable distance from a post office.
We will also check that local factors – such as public transport arrangements, pertinent topographical features, demographics and the impact on the local economy – have been properly considered.
However, I should make you aware that Postwatch Scotland does not have the power to overturn Post Office Ltd’s final decision on any closure.
The concerns you raise are of great value to Postwatch Scotland and will help to influence our response to Post Office Ltd at the end of the consultation period.
The information has also been passed to our network team responsible for assessing Post Office Ltd’s plans. I would like to thank you for taking the time to raise your concerns with us.
If you would like to discuss this, or we can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Postwatch Scotland Administrator
Why ? There was a packed meeting took place at the Paton’s Lane sheltered housing complex this afternoon where local residents voiced their concerns at the proposal by Stagecoach Strathtay to remove the Number 72 bus service.
I arranged the meeting so that the bus company could hear the specific concerns from residents about the effect of the bus service being lost. The Operations Manager from the bus company also attended to hear residents’ views. The fact that over 40 residents attended the meeting arranged at short notice shows the strength of feeling in the local community about the need to keep the 72 bus service.
I have no doubt that this point was not lost on the representative from Stagecoach Strathtay and he did promise to take back to the company the issues residents raised and thereafter feed back to me the company’s response. He has also agreed to attend a further meeting to discuss the company’s response after the company has had the opportunity to discuss all the issues raised. At this stage, Stagecoach Strathtay has proposed that, rather than their original decision to completely remove the 72 bus, they had reconsidered to an extent and would provide a more limited service, with only four buses each day and only travelling as far west as Windsor Street.
Whilst it is better than the original decision to simply take the service away completely, residents pointed out at today’s meeting that it fails to provide anything like the service of the current 72 in terms of the western part of the route, the links to Royal Victoria and Ninewells Hospitals and shopping facilities at Tesco Riverside. The company representative did say he would take back these concerns to the company. I think it should be stressed that the 72 provides a lifeline service for many residents, particularly elderly people, and its removal would be a real blow to the whole community. I really sincerely hope that Stagecoach Strathtay can come back with a better proposal than that currently on offer to help ensure that this lifeline service is not lost.
Tonight, I attended two meetings – firstly a public meeting on the Post Office closures (click on the headline to view the article in tonight’s “Evening Telegraph” covering my formal objection to the proposed closures of Lochee Road and Nethergate Post Offices) and thereafter a meeting of the Friends of Magdalen Green committee. The Friends are organising a petition against the proposal to withdraw the 72 bus service – good for them!
In my letter, I point out that, given its significant customer base, I am extremely surprised that Post Office Ltd is giving any consideration to closing Nethergate Post Office.
There is considerable evidence to show that the customer base of this Post Office will increase in the future rather than decrease. The Post Office is located in the City’s vibrant cultural quarter, an area which will see considerable further enhancement in future years. Within the cultural quarter and close to this Post Office are situated Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee Repertory Theatre, the Sensation Science Centre and an increasing number of restaurants, galleries, craft shops and bars.
The Nethergate Post Office is also extremely close to the new Alliance Trust headquarters due to be opened in the near future, where some 160 additional employees will be brought into the area and also in close proximity to the University of Dundee campus area with nearly 18,000 students and more than 3000 staff.
Major investment in new student accommodation and teaching and research facilities are ongoing, and this adds to the clear evidence that the customer base of Nethergate Post Office will increase in future years making it extremely difficult to understand the proposal to close the Nethergate Post Office.
With regard to Lochee Road Post Office, I point out that it serves a large local community including many elderly customers who live in sheltered housing, for example in the Tullideph area.
I have great concern that the alternative Post Offices listed by Post Office Ltd in relation to Lochee Road Post Office are not close by or accessible. The nearest alternative it quotes (Blackness Road) is not really an alternative at all given the topography of the area. Not only is the terrain extremely steep, there is also no direct bus service between the communities currently served by Lochee Road Post Office and Blackness Road.
The other alternative Post Office mentioned is Meadowside, which is almost a mile away.
I would add that Meadowside (which is quoted by Post Office Limited as an alternative Post Office for both the communities served by Nethergate and Lochee Road) already has queuing difficulties, and the queuing times will increase still further if either or both Lochee Road Post Office or Nethergate Post Office were to close.
It will cause significant difficulties for the local population paying rent and Council Tax payments, especially the large elderly population in the Lochee Road Post Office area.
My letter concludes by making clear that I would strongly argue that both Lochee Road Post Office and Nethergate Post Office should be retained.
Speaking with residents in the area, it is clear that they strongly oppose moves by Post Office Ltd to close the Post Office in Lochee Road. Closure would particularly hit the elderly people in the area and there is no easily accessible alternative Post Office.
It is good to see the strong support of residents for the campaign to save the Post Office and the FOCUS newsletter gives residents details of how to object to Post Office Ltd over their closure proposals.
You can download a copy of the FOCUS Special Edition for the area served by Lochee Road Post Office by clicking on the headline above.
The Liberal Democrats are very keen for the contract for the new card account to be awarded to the Post Office. Only the Post Office has the network to allow people from all over the country to access a card account of this kind.
There is huge frustration that the Government simply does not recognise the social value of the Post Office. Liberal Democrats have consistently and strenuously opposed the Government’s plan to close 2,500 branches across the UK this year – on top of the 4,000 they have already closed, and the 3,500 post offices that were closed under the Conservatives. So, while we respect the need to get a competitive deal for the taxpayer by putting the card account out to tender, we believe that protecting the long term viability of the Post Office and avoiding yet more closures should be the Government’s priority when they make a decision on the Post Office card account.
The card account contract is worth around £1 billion to post offices between 2003 and 2010. Without that income stream many thousands of other branches are likely to be unable to survive. The people who most need the service of a post office will be most affected
Instead of pulling the rug from under people’s feet, the Government should be building on the success of the Post Office card account. We need to find additional services to be provided through post offices, not cut the services that are already provided.
The Government’s track record on this issue does not give much cause for hope. In recent years the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have pulled the plug on television license payments at the Post Office, the Home Office has decided not to allow post offices to be involved in delivering passport services, and the Department for Transport is not allowing all post offices to issue driving licences. They have undermined the Post Office’s business at every turn.If the Government terminate the Post Office card account they would further seriously damage the post office network. Far from seeing it thrive, the Prime Minister risks making the destruction of Britain’s post office network the most visible part of his legacy.
* POST OFFICE CLOSURE PROPOSALS – opposing the recommendations by Post Office Limited to close Lochee Road and Nethergate Post Offices.
* FREEDOM OF THE CITY – To support this proposal to award Freedom of Dundee to Burmese Leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
* ENVIRONMENT MATTERS – Regarding air quality issues.
The concerns of both Friends of Magdalen Green and myself regarding events over the weekend at the Green were reported in last night’s “Evening Telegraph” – click on headline above to view article.
I was pleased that all four West End Ward councillors had attended the meeting with Post Office Limited and that there had been an excellent cross-party and cross-city turnout of councillors.
All four West End Councillors have made clear our total opposition to the loss of these Post Offices and I have taken the step of writing to my colleagues suggesting we meet next week to discuss a joint approach to maximise the effort to save the Post Offices in our area. I have no doubt we will all wish individually to make our own representations to Post Office Limited, but a co-ordinated effort is really needed in terms of the campaign.
Post Office Limited made clear that it would listen to any hard evidence and therefore I have already been in touch with the City Council Assistant Chief Executive requesting he provide evidence-based information that we can use to make the case to retain the Post Offices.
I believe there will be clear evidence that comes forward to support retention of these Post Offices. For example, the Nethergate Post Office is sited in an increasing busy cultural quarter, with the new Alliance Trust UK Headquarters to be shortly completed nearby – a £12m investment, bringing many new workers into the immediately adjacent area. It is also adjacent to the University campus, Dundee Contemporary Arts and Dundee Rep – an area with an increasing, not reducing, customer base.
In the case of Lochee Road Post Office, it is clear that Post Office Limited has failed to take into account the challenges that would face the large elderly population close by – for example from the Tullideph sheltered housing – as the “alternative” Post Offices they claim people can use are neither close by or easily accessible for the citizens who presently use Lochee Road.
I have also been in correspondence with Postwatch Scotland, and append the latest exchanges below :
I believe there will be clear evidence that comes forward to support retention of these Post Offices.
For example, the Nethergate Post Office is sited in an increasing busy cultural quarter, with the new Alliance Trust UK Headquarters to be shortly completed nearby – a £12m investment, bringing many new workers into the immediately adjacent area.
In the case of Lochee Road Post Office, it is clear that Post Office Limited has failed to take into account the challenges that would face the large elderly population close by – for example from the Tullideph sheltered housing – as the “alternative” Post Offices cited are neither close by or easily accessible for the citizens who presently use Lochee Road. Pertinent topographical features make, for example, Blackness Road Post Office difficult for the elderly and less mobile to get to from the Lochee Road area.
It is clear from the meeting elected members in Dundee had with Post Office Limited yesterday, that there is a great strength of feeling amongst city councillors of all political persuasions that the proposals are unacceptable and would lead to significant problems for the communities involved. I am very grateful, therefore, for Postwatch Scotland’s close interest in this issue.
Councillor for the West End
Convener of Planning and Transport – Dundee City Council
There is a clear need nationally for a costed and credible set of proposals to keep existing post offices open and, where necessary, to open others. I sincerely hope that our Labour MP in Dundee will help in the campaign to save Post Offices in the City. Everyone can help the campaign by firstname.lastname@example.org criticising the proposals.
Thank you for your e-mail to Alistair Darling about the future of the post office network.
The Government recognises the important social and economic role of post offices, particularly in rural and deprived urban communities. That is why the Government is determined to maintain a national post office network allowing people to have reasonable access across the whole country and has put in place a new policy and financial framework to achieve this.
There is wide acceptance – including from the National Federation of Subpostmasters – that the current size of the network is unsustainable. New technology, changing lifestyles and a wider choice of accessing services mean that people are not visiting post offices as often as they used to. The network’s losses are now running at almost £4 million a week – double what it was two years ago and that will increase further unless action is taken.
The Government’s public consultation on proposals aimed at securing a sustainable future for the network ran from 14 December 2006 to 8 March 2007. The consultation attracted over 2,500 responses and the Government announced on 17 May its decisions in light of the responses received.
The Government has been investing substantial sums in the post office network, totalling £2 billion since 1999. That has, for example, paid for a computer link-up for every post office as well as support for non-commercial branches since 2003. The Government has decided (subject to European State Aid clearance) to extend that support to 2011 with the provision of up to another £1.7 billion additional funding.
This funding will support a new strategic framework for the Post Office. There will be clearly defined minimum access criteria to safeguard rural, deprived urban and remote coverage. This will ensure that the vulnerable communities most in need of post office services will be protected. The network will be supplemented by 500 new and innovative Outreach locations, operated in partnership with other local services such as in pubs, village halls, churches or in mobile post offices, which will mitigate closures, primarily in smaller and more remote communities. Nevertheless, to ensure sustainability, there will need to be up to 2,500 compensated post office closures within the defined access criteria.
Post Office Limited is responsible for implementing the programme at a local level. They plan a rolling programme of 50 to 60 local consultations on detailed area plans, based on groups of Parliamentary constituencies. It will take around 18 months to complete, starting from Summer 2007. The Government does not have a role in proposals or decisions for individual post offices.
As well as the numeric access criteria, it is recognised that, in drawing-up implementation plans, Post Office Ltd will need to take into account local factors affecting ease of access, such as local geography: rivers, mountains etc. Post Office Ltd will also be required to consider the availability of public transport and alternative access to key post office services, local demographics and the impact on local communities. No areas will be subject to more than one round of closures and area proposals will be developed with the participation of sub-postmasters, local authorities and Postwatch before Post Office Ltd carry out local consultations, which will provide everyone with the opportunity to raise any specific concerns over particular proposals.
The Government has supported Post Office Ltd in its efforts to develop its range of financial service products, with Government’s investment having included £500 million for the Horizon project to bring computer systems into every post office throughout the UK.
The Post Office recognises the need to increase its range of services and products and that it needs to adapt to changing shopping habits and give subpostmasters high quality products to sell which appeal to the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s customers. Post Office Ltd is now the largest provider of foreign currency in the UK and the third largest provider of travel insurance. The Post Office is also the UK’s 5th largest fixed-line telephone service provider and has opened 175,000 Instant Saver Accounts in the product’s first year. New products have been introduced and more are in the pipeline. The Post Office will be launching a broadband service later this year in partnership with BT. That will enable it to become a key player in the broadband-based services market, offering Post Office broadband services to the public. That will give people another reason to go into post offices. BT recognises the value of having a shop-front up and down the country.
The value of having a national network is that there can be national agreements to provide travel insurance, broadband services and so on, which individual subpostmasters could never negotiate on their own. That is something that the National Federation of Subpostmasters supports.
The Government introduced the Post Office card account in 2003 and the current contract ends in March 2010. The Government has decided that it will continue with a new account after 2010. The new account will be available nationally and customers will be eligible for the account on the same basis as they are now. EU procurement rules mean that we need to competitively tender for this product. Given the size of the network and the access criteria that we are now introducing, the Post Office is well placed to put in a strong bid.
In addition, cash will be available at the Post Office through some 4,000 free-to-use cashpoint machines now being introduced across the network as well as a range of interest-paying accounts. These will be attractive to the general public as well as those Post Office card account users who choose to build up balances on their Card Account.
The Government’s policy framework, now in place, will enable Post Office Ltd to evolve to meet changing customer expectations and rise to the on-going challenges of doing business in today’s marketplace – whilst ensuring the provision of a truly national network.
If you have any specific concerns about the provision of post office services in your area, they are advised to take the matter up direct with Post Office Ltd for clarification. This can be done via the company’s websitewww.postoffice.co.uk or by phoning 08457 22 33 44 or by writing to POL Customer Care, FREEPOST NAT 18105, Sunderland SR3 3BR.
I hope the above is helpful.
Royal Mail and Postal Services Team