Lindsay Mackie is a consultant at nef. She is leading nef’s post office campaign and works on Clone Town and Ghost Town Britain.
The award of the Post Office Card Account to the Post Office is more brilliant news from the Government (a rarely crafted phrase). Today’s news that the Department for Work and Pensions is, after all, to award the Post Office Card Account to the Post Office, after an ill advised tender process, will safeguard much needed business for the network and provide a better service to ithe card’s 4.3 million users.
So now we have the Government, in the form of Lord Mandelson and James Purnell, publicly recognizing the future potential of the Post Office to provide financial services at a time when the big banks’ credibility and popularity is shot to bits.
It looks as though the Government has seen that being the Dr Beeching of the 21st century by allowing a key part of national infrastructure to be smashed on the altar of privatization and de-regulation isn’t a smart move. If this is so, then crucially the business secretary must now halt the current round of 2,500 post office closures if the Post Office under Royal Mail is to have a chance of being fit for the tough economic future that’s looming.
There are 14,500 post offices in the UK. A key and under reported role they have is in supporting the small and medium sized businesses that will be Britain’s economic saviour . This is a network that can be used to link the productive economy to stable finance. Therefore the next thing the Government has to do is investigate how to set up a People’s Bank based on the trusted PO network. This banking service would be fair and it would provide both local expertise and national linking.
In addition, the Post Office can be a hub for local and national government information. It could become a digitally backed network in addition to the vital real contact with real people. It holds local communities together. It includes the financially excluded. It exists in those place from which banks have pulled out.
Next on the to do list: Lord Mandelson must stop the creeping de-regulation of key parts of Royal Mail and announce that this great British institution is not up for grabs from private companies. Then he should say he recognizes Royal Mail as a British institution that is commercially viable but also a public service (and for this reason he could carry on the PO subsidy) which is not up for sale to private bidders- and he should advise any such potential bidders to take themselves elsewhere.
The campaign to save, strengthen and expand Royal Mail and the Post Office in these clear directions will be even more intensive now. All ideas and collaboration welcome…