Dealing with Labour’s mess, Part 93: Lib Dems secure future of post offices

by Stephen Tall on January 24, 2012

Remember the last Labour government’s record on post offices? Their numbers fell by more than 7,100, or 38%. But not any more, as a result of Lib Dem action within the Coalition — as Lib Dem Voice first reported here almost 18 months ago.

This is how the Press Association reports it:

The Government has secured the future of the Post Office under a 10-year deal giving certainty to postmasters, ministers have announced. The long-term arrangements between the Post Office and the Royal Mail will be reached before the two are separated under the Government’s controversial privatisation plans. Sub-postmasters welcomed the move but the Communication Workers Union said it was the end of an era for a fully publicly-owned postal service.

Postal Affairs Minister Edward Davey said: “Concerns people had about the Post Office becoming independent from Royal Mail were always misplaced as that separation is part of our cure, but the 10-year deal struck between Royal Mail and the Post Office will give sub-postmasters and others greater confidence. Coupled with winning new contracts and the successful pilots of new operating models, the signs are extremely encouraging for the future of the Post Office.”

The announcement is further evidence of Lib Dem Ed Davey’s success in his ministerial role — as noted by Mark Pack here — and why he’s being tipped for the cabinet.

Fellow Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt, Co-Chair of the party’s Parliamentary Committee on Business, Innovation and Skills, joined Ed in welcoming the news:

“This is very welcome news for both the Post Office and Royal Mail and demonstrates our commitment to ensure a sustainable future for both. Post Offices are a vital part of our communities and are the lynchpin of our towns and villages. More than 20m people visit a Post Office every week to send letters to loved ones, to manage their finances or to renew passports for holidays and hundreds of thousands of pensioners rely on them every day for their pensions.

“Labour left Royal Mail in a terrible mess and it is Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government who have stopped closures and put Royal Mail and the Post Office on a secure footing. Our plans mean that we will never see the kind of planned closures that devastated local communities under the previous Government.

“Labour said our plans would lead to more closures as the Royal Mail moved away from using the Post Office network. Today’s announcement proves that they were, once again, wrong.”

Lorely is right to note Labour’s knee-jerk oppositionism (despite their own dire record in government). Here, for example, is what shadow chancellor Ed Balls had to say back when he was contesting his party’s leadership:

“I will fight against the Con-Dem plans, which endanger this vital and popular public service.”

Contrast Ed’s predictable doom with the words today of National Federation of SubPostmasters (NFSP) general secretary George Thomson:

“Sub-postmasters will welcome the security which this news brings, which will help provide them with the confidence necessary to invest in their businesses for the future.”

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.