Councils should run post offices
As ConservativeHome regulars I hope you will have had the opportunity to follow our campaign to safeguard the future of our postal network. After re-opening our first post office in September, and ahead of announcing more re-openings in the coming months, we've now published a pamphlet that we hope will take the debate on delivering these services in a new and exciting direction.
We have been hugely encouraged by the enthusiasm of so many local councils and were delighted recently to welcome many of them to a national conference where this pamphlet was launched. We are now urging the Government and our Conservative colleagues to read this pamphlet and act to safeguard the future of our postal services.
At its heart, 'Counter Measures' presents radical plans to split Post Office Ltd into two - Post Office Ltd's commercial assets and its community assets (the branch network).
In the 'Counter Measures' vision upper tier and unitary authorities would become custodians of the branch network – and therefore being divided from PO Ltd's commercial assets (its products e.g. broadband, ISAs etc). Councils would be free to shape the post office network to meet local needs - innovating with service co-location, contracts and commissioning arrangements to create appropriate incentives for local postmasters. Post Office Ltd would continue to market its products and win contracts, and post office branches would continue to sell Post Office Ltd products.
It's clear the present government have been ineffective in supporting the post office network and this has lead to the situation we're in now with the number of branches falling by almost half since the late 1980s. The future of the Post Office card account contract is now also uncertain, threatening the closure of yet thousands more branches.
Essex County Council knows these closures have been incredibly damaging to local economies and communities. A branch in a small community does much more than provide a place to buy stamps; they support local trade and in rural communities provide the only access to banking and financial services.
We believe local government has a duty to respond to the needs of local
communities, and that is why we have spearheaded this campaign. By
bringing the local post office into the family of local government
services - recognising them as the important community asset that they
are - our model enables those who know most about their communities to
provide this vital local service while leaving Post Office Ltd the
freedom to act as
a purely commercial organisation.