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Post Office

Volume 450: debated on Thursday 19 October 2006

10. What assessment he has made of the procedures used by Post Office Ltd when consulting on its proposed changes to local post office services. (95037)

Under the Postal Services Act 2000, Postwatch was established to monitor changes to postal services and to ensure effective consumer representation. Postwatch has signed a code of practice with the Post Office, which provides a practical framework for consulting on proposed changes.

There is no doubt that Post Office Ltd has to make some difficult decisions and has some difficult challenges ahead, but does my right hon. Friend agree that, often, the way the Post Office goes about involving and consulting local communities leaves a lot to be desired? It was warned about that by the Select Committee on Trade and Industry and others over the urban reinvention programme, but in my constituency, although the Post Office has met me in respect of the proposal to franchise out a Crown post office, it seems to be adopting a tick-box mentality when saying that the local community has been consulted rather than thinking creatively about the process. Will my right hon. Friend have a word with the Post Office about that?

Yes I will. As my hon. Friend says, over the next few months the Post Office will have to make some difficult decisions about the shape and size of the network, and it is important that when there is consultation it is carried out properly. It will always be the case that, if people do not like a proposal, they may feel that there has not been proper consultation—no matter what the outcome—but there are some elementary things that we need to get right, so I would appreciate it if my hon. Friend could let me know precisely what passed between him and the Post Office so that we try to avoid such mistakes in the future.

Does the Secretary of State accept that, when there are changes to local postal services, it is important that there is proper consultation? In my constituency, for example, the sorting office in Kirriemuir, which covers the glens of Angus, decided to stop making newspaper deliveries. That does not appear to be a national process, but there seems to have been a review and cuts are being made by stealth. Where there is a rural service that has an impact on rural businesses, is not it important that there is proper consultation before such actions are taken?

I am not familiar with that particular instance, although I know Kirriemuir and that it is important. If the hon. Gentleman would care to let me know what he thinks went wrong, I will certainly ask the Post Office to look into it.