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10 January 2007

Barrett calls for united front against post office closures

John Barrett, Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West, today challenged city politicians from all parties to work together to save post offices across the capital from closure.

During a debate in parliament Mr Barrett, who is running a use-it-or-lose-it campaign across his constituency, urged Edinburgh politicians from all parties to take the lead in encouraging city residents to use their local post office, and ensure that they are not targeted by the latest round of closures.

Mr Barrett made the call after the Labour-run Edinburgh City Council backed a Liberal Democrat motion pledging to look at whether any additional council services could be transferred to local post offices. The council motion also called on all Edinburgh MPs to lobby against the Governments closure program, announced in the run up to Christmas.

During a special debate in Parliament today, Mr Barrett accused fellow Edinburgh MP and Secretary of State for the Department of Trade and Industry Alistair Darling, of undermining the long term sustainability of the post office network, and called on the Government to make more services available through local post offices.

John Barrett said:

“Even Alistair Darling’s fellow Labour politicians in the City Council accept that the Government cannot be trusted to safeguard the future of post offices in Edinburgh. This is a damning indictment of Government policy which has seen over 20 post offices close across the city since I was elected in 2001.

“I have seen for myself how busy post offices in my constituency have been over the Christmas period. However, unless the Government allows post offices to provide the kinds of services that local people need, I am increasingly concerned that for some city post offices, this Christmas may have been their last.

“In recent years, the Government has removed key business such as pensions and benefit payment services as well as TV licences, vehicle excise duty and passport authentication duties from post offices, and must take full responsibility for the latest round of closures.

“I am pleased to hear that the city council is looking at what additional services it can provide through post offices. I only wish Alistair Darling would follow the example of his Labour colleagues on the city council.

“For my part I have made it very clear to Government Ministers that post offices in my constituency act as an important focal point for local communities. I hope that by making a real effort to use our local post office more this year, we can send a strong message, from Edinburgh to Downing Street, that our post offices are as relevant in 2007 as ever before.


Notes

1. Details of the City of Edinburgh Council motion can be found at: http://cpol.edinburgh.gov.uk/getdoc_ext.asp?DocId=92652 on page 16-17

The full text of the motion is as follows:

18 Post Office Closures - Motion by Councillor Dawe

The Lord Provost ruled that the following item, notice of which had been given at the start of the meeting, be considered as a matter of urgency in order that it be considered timeously.

The following motion by Councillor Dawe was submitted in terms of Standing Order 27:

Noting the disturbing announcement on 14 December 2006 of the planned further closure of about 2,500 Post offices in the UK by 2009, and that this decision is largely a result of financial losses in the Post office Network, Council calls for an urgent report from the Director of Corporate Services on what steps the Council can take to limit the impact on Edinburgh citizens and whether the Council could transfer any business to Post offices to help ensure the vitality of the Post office network.

Council further calls on the MPs for Edinburgh to lobby Ministers to end the branch closure programme and protect the vital services of the Post Office for their constituents.

Decision

To call for an urgent report by the Director of Corporate Services in terms of the first paragraph of the motion.


2. Before Christmas, the Government announced plans for post office restructuring which they expect to lead to the closure of a further 2500 post office branches by 2009. They are consulting on the proposals until 8th March 2007


3. Mr Barrett has launched a ‘use-it-or-lose-it post office campaign across his Edinburgh West constituency. Details will be available soon at johnbarrettmp.com.

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