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Our Local Post Offices

Thu 1 Aug 2019

By Lisa Robillard Webb

I love my local post office and I’d be really stuck without it.   In Bovey Tracey we are really fortunate to have two – Fore Street and Brimley.  We are gifted to hold onto our local services throughout this area.  I am very fortunate to use the Fore Street branch several times a week.  It’s not just the last minute postages and frantic car tax renewals, I need their services to keep my business afloat and keep in touch with my family and friends.  It’s easy to be complacent about the role post offices play in our lives; probably because they’ve been part of our locality since we were born.

Although online services are essential for most people, there are plenty of occasions when the impersonal and distant nature of the internet doesn’t support us in our lives.  Being self employed, many of my customers still prefer to pay me by cheque.  Thankfully my bank accepts cheques via the post office counter, otherwise getting prompt clearance of the money would be really challenging. Like many working families we often experience a ‘pinch point’ of our finances near the end of the month and a delayed cheque clearance can cause significant cash flow problems.  On one occasion, I took a whole morning off to drive to Newton Abbot to pay a cheque into my bank account (as all Bovey banks are now closed).  After being caught in a traffic jam, I couldn’t find anywhere to park.  I subsequently had to turn around after a wasted two hour round journey with no paid-in cheque and with the loss of a morning’s earnings.

Our local post office helps us to stay connected with our relatives and long-distance friends – both in the UK and abroad. My husband’s family all live in Cheshire and we love to send parcels & cards for their birthdays and special occasions.  It feels important to let our loved ones know that we are thinking of them despite the hundreds of miles that separate us.  With the support of our kind and patient post office staff, I’ve managed to understand exchange rates, buy our Euros and successfully complete the challenging passport application. I know that at the counter I have probably asked some inane questions across the years and I know that the presence of a helpful person has gone a long way beyond navigating any FAQ section.

In the Labour Party locally, we are concerned about post offices.  We know that Britain’s 11,500 post office branches are facing mounting financial pressures.  It is claimed financial pressures have already forced up to 1,000 out of business. In this technological age, more customers are now going online to buy stamps and parcels for postage along with paying bills and using government services.  Government subsidies for remote post office branches have already fallen from £415million in 2013-14 to £99million in 2017-18.  Under current plans this will fall further to £50million in 2020-21 before being stopped completely.

At the moment Post Office Limited, which is owned by the Government, replaces branches when they shut, but campaigners have warned that the rate of closures in the coming years will make this impossible.

In Labour we believe that:

  • Our post offices are a key asset for the community, and the expertise and experience of staff there is invaluable.
  • The relentless franchising and closure programme of the profit-making Crown Post Offices, points to a lack of vision rather than the plan for growth and innovation that is needed.
  • Government should therefore halt these closures and bring together stakeholders, including the CWU, industry experts, and business leaders, to develop a new strategy that safeguards the future of the Post office.

We are calling for the network to be properly funded, with a full range of services over the counter for those who are not online, and better support for the development of community hub models.

I know that my local post office helps me to live my life in a rural area.  It helps me to connect with others, comply with laws (eg car tax) and access my money and vital services. There is something to be said for efficiency and online progression, however as humans we often benefit greatly from speaking to others and accessing services face to face.  Perhaps we should listen to Einstein’s words, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”.

Central Devon Labour Party – Lisa Robillard Webb – centraldevonlabour@gmail.com


Other columns by Lisa Robillard Webb

Political Choice - Fri 3 May 2019
High Streets – At the centre of our communities - Thu 24 Jan 2019
The Shame of UK’s Indefinite Detention - Thu 8 Nov 2018

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