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Post Office Closures (Essex)

Volume 477: debated on Thursday 19 June 2008

The Petition of residents of Hornchurch and the surrounding areas,

Declares the Petitioners' belief that the threatened closure of the much valued Hylands Post Office in Hornchurch will have a detrimental effect on the lives of the people who live in Hornchurch and Hylands if it is closed.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reverse the policy of closing sub Post Offices, notably Hylands Post Office, which provide local communities with their only source of accessing vital services.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrew Rosindell, Official Report, 29 April 2008; Vol. 475, c. 275 .] [P000182]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform:

The Government fully recognises the important social and economic role of post offices, particularly in rural and deprived urban communities. That is why it is determined to maintain a national post office network, allowing people to have reasonable access across the whole country, and why it has put in place a new policy and financial framework to achieve this. The Government has invested £2 billion in the post office network since 1999. That has, for example, paid for a computer link-up for every post office, as well as support for non-commercial branches since 2003.

In its response to the consultation on the Post Office network, the Government announced its decision to extend funding of up to £1.7 billion to 2011, including provision of an annual £150 million Social Network Payment to support the post office network up to this time. The Government strategy includes provision for 2,500 compensated closures and 500 new Outreach services.

The 500 new and innovative Outreach locations, operated in partnership with other local services (such as pubs, village halls, churches and mobile post offices), will mitigate closures, primarily in smaller and more remote communities. POL announced on 9 April that it will extend Outreach trials into urban areas which, if successful, could mean additional Outreach branches over and above the 500 originally planned. Nevertheless, there will need to be up to 2,500 compensated post office closures within the defined access criteria.

Post Office Limited (POL) is responsible for implementing the network change programme at a local level. It is developing a rolling programme of some 50 local consultations on detailed area plans, based on groups of Parliamentary constituencies. The first area plans went out to local consultation on 2 October last year and these plans will continue to be rolled out at regular intervals until August, with the whole programme scheduled to take around 15 months to complete. The consultation period for London has finished and POL has published its final decisions in an Area Plan Decision Booklet for London, which is available on their website at:

Having considered all representations and the criteria for the network change programme, POL have confirmed that the Hylands Post Office is to close.

POL develops its proposals with the participation of sub-postmasters, local authorities and the consumer watchdog, Postwatch. When drawing up its implementation plans, POL takes into account the numeric access criteria set out by Government, as well as local factors affecting ease of access, such as local geography (rivers, mountains etc). POL is also required to consider the availability of public transport and alternative access to key post office services, local demographics and the impact on the local economy. Local consultations provide the opportunity to raise any specific concerns over particular proposals.

The Government does not have a role in proposals or decisions for individual post offices. No decisions on individual Post Offices are taken until after local consultations. Those decisions are made by POL in light of the responses to the consultation, while subject to a four-stage appeals process involving Postwatch. The Review Process for closure decisions after the public consultation process applies where Postwatch shows that, for an individual branch:

POL has not given due consideration to material evidence received during the public consultation in coming to its decision or;

evidence emerges from the consultation that the proposal for the branch does not meet the Government's policy requirements.

The aim of the further review process is for POL and Postwatch to reach an agreed way forward by bilateral review, with 3 stages available at increasing levels of seniority. An addition to the review process provides for very difficult cases which remain unresolved after stage 3. At this stage the Chairman of Royal Mail Group will review the issues and reach a final decision.