Post Offices

This week thousands of subpostmasters descended on Parliament to lobby the Government on the future of the post office network and to present a petition signed by 4 million people - including myself - to the Prime Minister.

I know from my visits to local post offices just how valuable a service they provide, especially to the elderly, but also to young mothers and people who may not have access to their own transport.

Where rural communities have already lost their pub or village shop, post offices are often at the heart of local life. But they are under threat. Three quarters of rural post offices are losing money. Two post offices in my constituency have already closed within the last five years.

The rural post office network has recently lost the BBC contract to sell TV licences and, more recently, the Government has decided not to renew the contract for the Post Office Card Account, which is still used by 4 million people.

Technological progress is bound to change the way in which local services are delivered, and there are limits to how much any government can provide in subsidy (currently £150 million a year), particularly when over one thousand post offices in the network have fewer than six customers a day.

But I believe that post offices are a public service which we should try to retain. So we need to look at more innovative solutions, such as bringing local services together in one village premises. These could include, for example, a post office, a base for local police offices or wardens, and a parish centre.

We could also free post offices to offer a greater range of products and services on behalf of commercial organisations and local councils. Let's think creatively about ways to preserve post offices at the heart of village life.

Michelle Taylor