EAST ANGLIA: Anger after state bank is ‘dumped’

THE region’s rural post office network could be further decimated by privatisation plans, it has been claimed.

They were speaking after the Government unveiled plans to invest in post offices, cut queues and increase opening times but stopped short at setting up a Post Office Bank which ministers said would be too time-consuming and expensive arguing that now was “not the right time”.

In the past five years more than 60 post offices have been axed across Suffolk and north Essex and there is widespread concern that the latest shake-up will do little to stop the rot.

Will Gibson, chief executive of Suffolk Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), said: “Smaller post offices are still being constrained, the Government has to allow them to offer the full range of Post Office services and products if they are going to give them a fighting chance.

“We need to find a way of sustaining the infrastructure, the previous Government talked about a people’s bank and using the Post Office as an outlet for that.


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“That could be the lifeline the Post Office needs.”

He was speaking as the Government promised an “exciting new era” for the Post Office when it pressed ahead with controversial plans to privatise parts of the Royal Mail, and said it was keen for banking to be extended into the post branch network.

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Postal affairs minister Ed Davey announced an agreement between Post Office Ltd and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) which will give RBS and NatWest customers access to their current and business accounts through the Post Office.

This will mean that almost 80% of current accounts will be accessible at post offices, said Mr Davey.

“We’re determined to turn the Post Office network around and end the years of decline. The Post Office is a tremendous national asset. It will not be for sale and there will be no programme of closures.

“To underline our commitment we have announced �1.34 billion of funding over the next four years.”

The Communication Workers Union backs the idea of a Postbank and regional organiser Paul Moffat said: “The Post Office is now a part of our social network, it creates community cohesion especially in places like Suffolk which are very rural.”

However, the union is questioning the funding method for any revamp.

He believes that privatisation will lead to increased competition, which will have a detrimental effect on village post offices.

“Privatising Royal Mail will lead to the closure of smaller branches, and Suffolk will suffer because it is so rural.”

George Thomson, general secretary of the National Federation of SubPostmasters, said: “The NFSP welcomes the announcement of trials for new government services at post offices, which have the potential to allow the public to deal face-to-face with the state in a trusted local environment, as well as delivering vital new revenue streams for our post offices.”

In the past five years more than 60 post offices have been axed across Suffolk and north Essex and there is widespread concern that the latest shake-up, designed to save our surviving branches, will do little to stem the flow.

Will Gibson, chief executive of Suffolk Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), said: “Smaller post offices are still being constrained, the Government has to allow them to offer the full range of post office services and product if they are going to give them a fighting chance.”

The Government hope that by selling off parts of Royal Mail they will be able to generate capital to invest in the remaining post offices, bring about an “exciting new era”.

They promise refurbished branches, extended opening hours and reduced queues but Mr Gibson believes they need to go one step further.

“We need to find a way of sustaining the infrastructure, the previous Government talked about a peoples’ bank and using the post office as an outlet for that.

“That could the lifeline the post office needs.”

The Communication Workers Union back the idea of a Postbank and regional organiser Paul Moffat said: “The post office is now a part of our social network, it creates community cohesion especially in places like Suffolk which are very rural.

“People rely on it and bringing in more services saves them from having to travel to larger towns.”

However, the union are questioning the funding method for any revamp.

Mr Moffat said: “Why does Royal Mail need to seek private capital? The pension agreement is saving them �400 million and Postcomm have given them greater commercial freedom meaning they are better placed to compete with other providers.”

He believes that privatisation will lead to increased competition, which will have a detrimental effect on village post offices.

“Privatising Royal Mail will lead to the closure of smaller branches, and Suffolk will suffer because it is so rural.”

George Thomson, general secretary of the National Federation of SubPostmasters, said: “The NFSP welcomes the announcement of trials for new government services at post offices, which have the potential to allow the public to deal face-to-face with the state in a trusted local environment, as well as delivering vital new revenue streams for our post offices.

“However, we need to see these schemes develop beyond trial status - ministers must therefore ensure that funding is earmarked to allow the nationwide roll-out of these services across the country on a permanent basis. We must also see enough services introduced to ensure there is an increase in the number of people visiting post offices.”

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