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Post Office closures could be delivered if service isn't protected, says SNP

27 Jun 2020, 14:17

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/poli ... d-22258042

An SNP MP has called for the UK Government to provide clarity on the future of the Post Office after bosses revealed plans for further savings across the network.

The SNP has called on the UK Government to ensure there are no Post Office branch closures after bosses revealed plans to cut costs.

MP Marion Fellows has written to UK business secretary Alok Sharma urging him to provide clarity on the Post Office's Project Neo, which will examine the network's role in the post-Covid world.

The party wants the continuation of public subsidy of the postal network to ensure branches can survive - particularly in rural areas.

Correspondence between Post Office boss Nick Reade and unions revealed that Project Neo will aim at “delivering lower costs” and look at the “future size, shape and design” of the network.

It also states that Post Office will struggle to break even in a year where it has been hit by the coronavirus crisis and the pay-out to sub-Postmasters affected by the Horizon scandal.

In response to a question in Parliament from Fellows last week, small business minister Paul Scully refused to provide assurances to sub-Postmasters and communities that the public subsidy would be extended in the 2020 Spending Review.

Fellows said: “The UK Government must ensure post offices have a sustainable future so that they can continue to serve communities across Scotland and the rest of the UK – and it can do that by continuing the public subsidy of Post Office Ltd to prevent any project leading to branch closures.

“The Tories must also provide clarity on ‘Project Neo’. They cannot just sit on their hands – as they have done before - while the Post Office heads towards privatisation or it will be the staff and communities that suffer.

“Covid-19 coupled with years of mismanagement and executive profiteering cannot be used as an excuse to close branches, cut jobs, and deprive communities of key services.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, sub-Postmasters have proven just how essential they are to communities. The UK Government must now step up and support them as they have supported us through this crisis.”

A spokesman for the CWU - the union representing the majority of postal workers - said: "We are extremely worried about the future of the nation's Post Offices.

"It feels like moves are being made by the post office board through Project Neo to claw back the very real and significant legal costs wasted in the futile defence of the Horizon scandal.

"If we are not careful there could be a second wave of victims as postmasters won't be able to afford to provide a public service and the resultant closures will impact on communities everywhere."

A spokesman for the Post Office said: “Listening to postmasters and helping them to thrive is integral to our partnership approach.

"Next week, at our ‘We’re Stronger Together’ events we’ll hear directly from postmasters on their hard work serving customers during the coronavirus pandemic, the challenges they face and the opportunities to further improve postmasters’ revenue.”

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