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Assembly must show strong support for Post Offices

8 January, 2007

Sinn Féin General Secretary, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA has called for the Transitional Assembly to show strong support for our post offices.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"I believe that we must send out a very clear message of support for our Post Offices from this Assembly. The intention to radically reduce the number of Post Offices will have a dramatic effect on local communities - particularly - but not only in rural areas."

Echoing the comments of Tom Begg, chairman of Postwatch Scotland, Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"Rural post offices need 'long-term clarity' together with 'short-term certainty' and 'a change programme based on clear criteria of customers' needs. Change should not be a top-down approach ... Government's consultation should be based on evidence and recognition of customer needs - local consultation on individual changes' because 'one size does not fit all ... local needs and capabilities differ'."

The Sinn Féin Economy Spokesperson continued:

"Royal Mail has an obligation to ensure that no more than 5 per cent of users' premises are further than 5km away from an access point that is capable of receiving registered mail - normally defined as a post office - but according to 'Postwatch' in Scotland it is already 19 per cent - this part of Ireland, particularly West of the Bann has similar rurality. Clearly these areas would be particularly affected by the loss of such an essential service.

"For the Rural community it is additional evidence of British government intention to destroy their traditional way of life. First we had PPS 14 then the statement that some rural schools would have to be closed and now the local Post Offices may also be shut. This is a continuation of the worrying erosion of essential services in rural areas.

People in rural areas need the post office network. We need to see action that will regenerate our rural communities, not irresponsible and unaccountable actions that will decimate them.

"Deliberate Government policy and dogma is the actual reason that many local Offices are now considered unviable. It is the inevitable result of government action in running down many of the services that where once the mainstay of the post offices, not the loss of the traditional customer base. When payment of benefits moved from payment books to electronic accounts, post offices lost out dramatically because government encouraged recipients to have their benefits paid into bank accounts. The loss of NIE power cards, TV license saving stamps and other pre-payment cards to convenience stores was another blow. Therefore it is deliberate government policy that has the Post Office network in the state it is in and deliberate government policy is what is required to secure the survival of this essential community service." ENDS

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