Vulnerable Londoners are suffering most from post office closures in the capital, according to a London Assembly report (Post Office Closures in London) published today. The closures cause particular problems for the elderly, single parents, those with mobility difficulties and people on low incomes.
Assembly member Andrew Pelling, Chair of the Committee which produced the report,
said: “Our investigations have highlighted the way in which closures impact particularly adversely on senior citizens and on the less privileged in London.”
In November 2000, Post Office Ltd started the “Urban Reinvention Programme” which sought to restructure the company’s network by closing a third of its 9,000 urban branches and modernising some of the remaining ones. It is estimated that by the end of 2004 up to 500 or
around 45 percent of post offices in London will have closed. The closure programme is voluntary and hinges on postmasters’ individual decisions.
Today’s report says a Government decision to switch state benefit and pension payments direct to bank accounts has sped up this process. The change to payment methods means that branches are losing up to 45 percent of their business.
The report by the Assembly’s Public Services Committee says: “Sub-postmasters have taken up this scheme as they have been experiencing a reduction in turnover and income since the Government decision to pay benefits and state pensions direct into recipients’ bank accounts.
“The problem with this voluntary approach, the report highlights, is that local community needs are not considered and Londoners could lose one post office only to discover that the next nearest will also close under the programme.
The report goes on to say: “The closure of a high street post office is not a decision that should be taken lightly as this is one of the stepping-stones that can lead to the decline of the high street.”
The report can be accessed here