‘Protect us’ plea from Norwich post offices

Norwich's post office bosses have called on the Government to stick to their promises and support them - or see more communities lose a vital service.

And they are also urging the public to make more use of what they can offer.

Their rallying cry comes as the Postal Services Bill - which plans to separate Post Office Ltd from Royal Mail and privatise Royal Mail - is going through the House of Lords.

And it follows the blow dealt to post offices earlier this month when the government announced it was removing the contract for processing benefit cheques from the Post Office and giving it to Paypoint.

The contract had been with the Post Office since its inception 43 years ago and is worth about �20 million a year. Malcom Wright, subpostmaster at Vauxhall Street Post Office in Norwich for 16 years, said: 'The coalition government stood up in parliament and said they would support the Post Office but straightaway they have taken business away from us.'

He said it was a very worrying time and that it felt like a big question mark was hanging over the future of post offices.

'We want and need more business. That is basically the crux of it,' he said.

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Roy Downes, subpostmaster of New Lakenham Post Office for 34 years, said: 'If the government does not put business our way then post offices will go.

'The general public also needs to understand that we cannot survive just by selling a few stamps. We need more business.'

He added: 'The government keeps saying it wants to maintain the Post Office but the work does not come forward.

'About five years ago we lost the television licences and that was a big thing for the post offices.

'All the DVLA can think about is getting people to do their car tax online rather than go to the post office - but the government should be telling departments like this to encourage people to use post offices.

'We need the government to honour its promise to put more work through post offices.'

John Smith, secretary of the Norwich branch of the National Federation of SubPostmasters and subpostmaster at Rockland St Mary for 14 years, said while the federation was in the main supporting the Postal Services Bill it was vital that the government gives the Post Office network the support that was being promised.

'If the policies are correct then the Postal Services Bill should be good for subpostmasters because there are promises we will be more like a government front office - but it is all promises at this stage.

'We do not know the intricate details yet but what happened with the benefits cheque service does not help your confidence.

'Governments of all persuasions are good at promising things but not necessarily delivering.

'Too many times time we have had too many disappointments.'

Keith Nicholls, secretary for the King's Lynn and North Norfolk Branch of the National Federation of SubPostmasters and subpostmaster at Stalham Post Office for more than 20 years, said: 'I think the intentions of the Postal Services Bill are good and the rhetoric is good, but we need the action we have been promised.

'We were very disappointed by the government promising us with one hand to give us more business and then taking it away with the other.

'It would be nice if the government would treat post offices as their front office - not only central government but local government as well.'

Norwich South MP Simon Wright said: 'It is certainly the case that the government wants to see the Post Office network develop which is why it is putting �1.3 billion into the network over the next four years.

'That money will be used to modernise the Post Office network and by doing so improve the Post Office's ability to bid for other services.'

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said there were many things that government departments could do to support the Post Office for example looking at ways that pensioners continue to use post offices.

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