Thursday, November 13, 2008

Card Rethink Won't Ease Post Office Pain

A rethink over Post Office benefit payments has brought some relief to the few thousand still open for business after savage cuts. But Post Office closures have ripped the heart out of communities and the government change of heart won't ease that pain. 

Today's early announcement was unexpected but unsurprising given the firm grip deputy prime minister Lord Mandleson has on the government. 

But it's a topsy-turvy policy, closing Post Offices with one hand and awarding card contracts with the other. 

Many MPs were furious, with ministers set to hand the £1billion benefit contract to the private company PayPoint.

Coming just a year after the beginning of 2500 closures, many feared the switch would spell the death knell for the Post Offices still left struggling and cause undue hardship to pensioners who use a Post Office for benefit payments. 

It was looking like political suicide as millions signed a petition and MPs from all Parties called for the contract to stay with the Post Office. 

Current Post Office advertising centres on "The People's Post Office", with warm, friendly adverts which sticks in the throats of people who have watched the network being decimated. 

A recent carefully leaked letter to the Guardian pointed the way for a rethink, when it seemed new business secretary, Lord Mandelson, hinted the Post Office's role may be more banking focused.

The decision to close 2,500 of the country's Post Offices last year caused outrage. Some cabinet members were forced into the indignity of campaigning against Post Office closures in their constituencies, flying in the face of government closure policy. 

Many, from all shades of political opinion, have championed the cause of the cherished Post Office. 

Today's announcement brings some relief to the few thousand left open which were doomed without the benefit contract. 

But it brings little relief to the people who have seen the heart ripped out of their local communities when the government embarked on its shameful desecration of this vital public service which has traditionally played such an important part in our lives. 

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