Friday, 1 February 2008

Smith Fury on Post Office 'Consultation"

Morecambe and Lunesdale MP has savaged the post office and the government for their handling of the latest round of unwelcome Post Office closures and called for a parliamentary debate on the plans.

As we reported previously, post office cut proprosals call for six post office closures locally and two will be replaced with am "outreach solution".

Speaking in a business of the House debate in the House of Commons yesterday, Geraldine Smith said she was "particularly concerned about the recent Post Office consultation on the closures" and pointed out the poor decision making behind some of them.

Concerned by plans and she asked Harriet Harman for a debate after receiving a letter about the closures from Richard Lynds, who is the network development manager for the Post Office.

"When I tried to contact him about the changes, I was given a call centre," she revealed. "No one knew who he was."

Worse yet, when the MP contacted the Post Office chairman Allan Leighton's office, "I found that he had gone on holiday during the consultation period.

"It is not good enough," she declared, pointing out that the alternative post offices that would survive the cuts were not suitable for many potential custmores, particularly those without a car. "The nearest post office to Nether Kellet, one of the post offices [facing closure] in my constituency, is two miles away. It is on a road where there is no footpath. Pensioners could not even walk to it. They would have to change buses to get there. This is really unacceptable."

Harriet Harman said she would raise Smith's account of the unsatisfactory way in which the consultation has operated the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform John Hutton. "We must ensure that, if at any stage a Government Department or agency engages in consultation, it is genuine consultation," Harman opined, although she did not commit to a debate, "otherwise it is worse than simply taking the decision itself.

"The last thing people want is to be told that they are being consulted and then not be consulted at all."

The six-week public consultation period for the proposals began on 22 January, 2008, and all representations should be received by 3 March, 2008.

To express their views, people should write to Richard Lynds, Network Development Manager, c/o National Consultation Team, FREEPOST CONSULTATION TEAM, email: consultation@postoffice.co.uk or call the Customer Helpline: 08457 22 33 44.