Westminster challenged on post office services

The future of a £60 million a year DVLA contract is a key test of the UK Government’s promise to secure the future of the Post Office by making the network the ‘front-office’ of government.

Pressing the UK Government at Scottish Questions, SNP Postal Affairs spokesperson Mike Weir MP highlighted a new report from the National Federation of SubPostmasters which underlines the dramatic decline in government services delivered through the network under the previous Labour government.

The report reveals that, in 2004/2005 government services accounted for nearly half (£576m) of all revenue received by the Post Office but, by 2009/10 this had fallen to around a fifth (£167m) of all Post Office revenue.

Mr Weir said:

“UK Ministers have promised to make the post office network the ‘front office of government’ but the reality is that, over the past ten years, there has been a sharp decline in government services available through the local network.

“The decision on the future of the £60 million a year DVLA contract is now a key test of that commitment. The UK Government must put its money where its mouth is.

“In 2004/2005 government services accounted for nearly half of all revenue received by the Post Office but, by 2009/10 this had fallen to around a fifth of all Post Office revenue.

“Despite coalition promises, there has been a steady paring of business, with the Department for Work and Pensions, for example, having awarded important contracts to other providers.

“If the DVLA contract is lost it will have a very serious impact on the future of local post offices.

“We are already in the position where many post offices cannot provide the existing DVLA service. In my constituency, the post office in the largest town of Arbroath has to advise people to travel to Forfar or Dundee to renew a photograph driving license. This diminution of services is likely to worsen as they downgrade post offices under the changes to the post office local branch system.

“It’s imperative that the government and post office look seriously at the ability to deliver these essential services. Failure to do so could lead to a further spiral of decline and undermine the viability of vital post office services, cutting back crucial provisions in communities across Scotland.”