The SNP’s Small Business spokesperson has warned that the lack of support from the UK government for postmasters could cause local Post Office branches across the UK to face closure.
Marion Fellows MP has criticised the Tory minister for Postal Affairs, Kelly Tolhurst, after her request for an urgent meeting in November was ignored.
The MP is looking to raise a number of issues with the government minister, including concerns that low pay levels are a leading cause of branch closures across Scotland - as postmasters have taken an average pay cut of 4.5% this year.
In 2017/18, Post Office profits rose to £35 million whilst 11,500 Post Office workers faced a combined £17m pay cut.
In the SNP MP’s constituency of Motherwell and Wishaw, a number of sub-postmasters turned down the opportunity to re-open one of the area's Post Office branches, with Marion Fellows citing concerns over contracts and pay.
Concern has also been raised over the decision by the Post Office Network to turn 74 crown branches into franchises run by WHSmith – with the increased competition putting at risk existing local Post Office services.
Citizens Advice revealed last year that over two million small businesses – 62% of small businesses in the UK – use Post Offices at least once a month. The research also revealed that most people (49%) found Post Office branches more important than a bank branch (31%), library (29%), or a pub (25%).
Commenting, Marion Fellows MP said:
“Local Post Office branches are the backbone of local communities and their services are crucial to many businesses and individuals on a daily basis across Scotland and the UK.
“With the festive period increasing demand on postal services, it is vital the UK government steps in to protect the Post Office network and postmasters who are facing challenging circumstances.
“The sub-Postmasters’ contract introduced by the UK government in 2012 is undoubtedly contributing to the number of branches that are facing closure.
“Tory ministers must urgently step in and review the contract - which does not offer postmasters a fair rate - and work to reverse the tide of closures which are hitting services for local communities.
“The UK government must deliver real support for hard-working postmasters. Whilst Post Office Executives receive a pay rise, postmasters pay has declined by over £107 million since 2012.
“It’s unacceptable that the government minister for Postal Affairs has refused to meet with me to discuss key issues over pay and the recent decision to turn 74 crown Post Offices into franchises in WHSmith stores - without consultation with existing local Post Offices.
“Post Offices are closing as postmasters struggle to make a living on the contract introduced by this UK government. The government has to step in and act before further branches are pushed into closure as we head into the New Year."