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North Yorkshire demands a future for rural Post Offices

[Wednesday 13 December 2006]
jim fitzpatrick
Jim Fitzpatrick - set to
announce future of post
office subsidy

AS rural communities across the Yorkshire Dales await a Government announcement on the future of Post Offices and the continuation of the rural Post Offices subsidy - due to be published tomorrow (December 14) - North Yorkshire County Council has set out what it is hoping to hear from ministers.

In a response to North Yorkshire County Council, the Minister for Employment Relations and Postal Services, Jim Fitzpatrick MP, said that the Government remains committed to maintaining a national network and recognises the social and economic role Post Offices play in rural areas in particular.

Mr Fitzpatrick made a similar claim to Daelnet readers in a written response to one of our articles that questioned the Government's commitment to the future of the subsidy.

County Councillor Shelagh Marshall, North Yorkshire Older People's Champion, wrote to the Government in October asking for the continuation of the rural Post Office subsidy. Councillor Marshall also brought to the Minister's attention the distress and inconvenience to residents caused by the uncertainty over the future of rural Post Offices.

Councillor Marshall said: "Rural Post Offices are often the only way to access cash for older people, the disabled and those without transport. More banks need to agree with the Post Office to allow their customers to access cash. There is a need to continue the Post Office Card Account for those with no bank accounts."

Jim Fitzpatrick went on to say: "The problem for the Post Office is that people, for understandable reasons, are simply not using their local Post Offices in the way that they did in the past.

"People are choosing to get services in the different ways now available to them. Young and old alike are increasingly choosing the convenience of direct debit to pay bills, cash machines to get their money, and the phone and internet for banking and getting information on Government and other services."

In conclusion Councillor Marshall added: "We also need the minister to acknowledge the fact that many people live a long way from a cash dispenser and many do not have access to computers and therefore internet banking."

Below is a letter from Jim Fitzpatrick in response to an earlier Daelnet article in which we stated (correctly in our opinion) that the Post Office subisidy is under severe threat from a government that has consistently failed to propose policies that benefit the countryside and country folk. Along with communities across the Dales, Daelnet eagerly awaits the minister's announcement.

Dear Sir/Madam

Let me reassure your readers that the Government believes firmly that Post Offices are an important part of British life, particularly in rural and deprived urban areas.

This is why we have made investment of more than £2bn since 1999, and we will continue to support the national network. As the Secretary of State Alistair Darling has made absolutely clear a subsidy will continue to be needed for the foreseeable future.

As the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters have said themselves, the network in its current state is 'unsustainable'. This year the network is expected to lose £4 million every week, and some of the smallest post offices are trying to get by on fewer than three customers a day.

What sub-postmasters and what customers want is long-term stability. The Government will be announcing proposals shortly to address this and help Post Office Limited ensure a stable footing for the Post office network going forward.

Jim Fitzpatrick
Postal Services Minister

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