Protect our post offices campaign
In 2013 the NFSP launched a campaign to call for action in four keys areas to support the post office network.
NFSP members encouraged their customers to sign campaign postcards, which were sent to their MP, resulting in parliamentary questions and press releases and social media activity from MPs.
Three of the four themes addressed within the campaign have seen progress: the government has stated that it will retain its remaining 30% stake in Royal Mail until at least after the general election; while there has been a growing focus on increasing banking services available at post offices; and in December 2014, the government announced a new seven-year contract for the Post Office card account. However, instead of increasing government services at post offices - the fourth theme of the campaign - these have instead seen a continued decline.
What we said during the campaign
The NFSP is calling on members to join our campaign and demand that the government takes action to protect our post offices.
The government and Post Office Ltd (POL) are insisting that all is well for the UK’s post offices. However, the NFSP is aware that the reality for the vast majority of members is very different. Subpostmasters are finding it ever harder to make a living from their post offices. Rising running costs, falling pay and the lack of new services are all factors which have created a tougher climate than ever to run a post office.
The NFSP highlights four key themes on which government must take action to protect our post offices:
1. Halt the sale of Royal Mail and retain a stake in the company
The government may have announced its plans for the sell-off this October but it’s not too late for ministers to reconsider the damaging impact of the sale. Subpostmasters are increasingly reliant of income from Royal Mail transactions, and any reduction in that income will force many post offices, already operating on the tightest of margins, to close. The government must maintain a stake in the company to protect our interests in the future.
2. Increase access to government services at post offices
Post offices are the natural home for all forms of central and local government services and there is evidence that this can save money; improve public access; and increase income and footfall for post offices. However, ministers have so far utterly failed in their pledge to provide more services. Instead, subpostmasters are now earning less from government services than they were three years ago, when the government took office and made its pledge. It’s time for ministers to make good on their promise.
3. Allow millions of people to continue to collect their pensions and benefits at post offices
The contract for the Post Office card account (POCA) is due to expire in March 2015, and there are no plans to renew or replace it. This popular service provides a lifeline to 3m customers, as well as vital income for post offices. Meanwhile, the government’s Universal Credit programme, which is now being introduced and requires working age claimants to receive all their benefits in a single payment, will only allow payments into a POCA as a last resort.
Post offices must retain a central role in the provision of pensions and benefits, by extending the POCA contract and ensuring that Universal Credit allows customers the opportunity to collect their benefits at the Post Office.
4. Offer a comprehensive range of banking services at post offices
Post offices often provide the only local access to cash and banking services, particularly in rural and deprived urban areas. However, until a comprehensive banking offer can be accessed at post offices and is widely publicised, the potential of this service for customers and subpostmasters will not be fully realised.
We want to see full access to all high street bank accounts alongside POL’s own forthcoming current accounts. This would allow post offices to act as a genuine one-stop shop for individuals’ and businesses’ banking needs. And we still believe that in the longer-term, a state-backed Postbank should be created at the Post Office.
Achieving these goals can help protect subpostmasters’ existing revenues and drive much-needed new income for post offices. But we need your help to achieve this.
The NFSP has written to all subpostmasters asking them to encourage their customers to sign our campaign postcards and send them to their local MP. Either send the cards in batches, or all in one go. However, don’t hold onto signed cards for too long – we want MPs to get the message loud and clear that subpostmasters and their customers are concerned for the future and that urgent action is needed.
Don’t know who your MP is or how to contact them? You can find out using this website. We've also put together a template letter, which subpostmasters can personalise and send to their MP alsong with the signed postcards.
The NFSP is also encouraging members to contact their local media about the campaign. We've provided a template press release and a template letter to the editor for subpostmasters to download, fill in their information and issue to their local media.
Subpostmasters can download a campaign poster to display in their post offices, and a copy of the campaign postcard.
The NFSP has also issued a press release to mark the launch of the campaign.