Postal services have been high on the list of concerns for as long as I have been involved in politics. The Royal Mail and the Post Office network has been transformed – many post offices have been closed, competition for delivery services has increased and the changing way we shop has led to a boom in parcel deliveries.
I got to see Postmen and women at work recently when I was invited to a sorting office and went out to help on a round. Of course, as a Liberal Democrat, I have stuck a fair few leaflets through doors over the years. It is always good, though, to see how vital services work – and the challenges people face every day in their jobs.
The Royal Mail has launched a campaign this summer to raise awareness of animal attacks on post men and women. Dog attacks always increase over the summer – as more people are at home so pets are allowed to roam more freely than at other times. No one wants to see pets locked up unnecessarily, especially when the sun is shining, but if you do have a dog, please take sensible steps to make sure people coming to your door are not faced with any dangers.
The local sorting office manager has also written to Haringey Council about access to flats. It is frustrating for everyone if post cannot be delivered and I am happy to support him in his efforts to get better access to blocks of flats without compromising the security of residents.
Under the last Labour government we saw post office closures year after year – five here in Hornsey & Wood Green. There is always a fierce debate about the cost of maintaining postal services but we have also seen the cost of undermining the local network of post offices. Residents tell me that queuing times are just too long at many of the remaining post offices in the area.
So I was delighted when the coalition government announced earlier this year that it was ending the programme of post office closures. We are also introducing new operating models for existing post offices. The pilots for the new models will have a share in a £210 million subsidy from the government. This is part of a £1.3 billion investment in the post office network that the coalition government is making. The new structures will start to be introduced more widely this summer – it is a voluntary scheme and I hope some local sub-postmasters will take the opportunity to explore the new options.
We need to make sure it all works as well as possible for local people of course. That’s why I have written to all the post offices in Hornsey and Wood Green – the area I represent in parliament – to ask for their views. I will be reporting back on their views to local people and to my Liberal Democrat colleague Norman Lamb who is the government minister responsible for postal services.
I want to go further than just saving existing post offices, though. I want communities to think about where new post office services can be provided. One initiative that I am keen to explore is for other public services to work with post offices to provide services from the same premises. Liberal Democrat councillors are pressing Haringey Council to look at the idea but do you have any suggestions for where new post office services could be provided?
Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey & Wood Green
Tel: 020 8340 5459
She blogs at www.LynneFeatherstone.org and is on Twitter at twitter.com/LFeatherstone
Email: email@example.com or write to me at House of Commons, London SW1A