Tories prepare post office pressure

The Conservatives are hoping to draw attention to the government’s post office closure programme at a parliamentary debate next week.

Shadow business secretary Alan Duncan plans on using the Tories’ opposition day in the Commons to debate his party’s preferred suspension of the programme.

He joins unions and local community groups in opposing proposals to close 2,500 post offices across the country.

“Across the country, MPs have been campaigning to highlight the failings of the closure plans and the consultation process,” he said.

“We think it is right that, in the light of all the complaints and concerns, parliament should now call a halt to the process.”

Nearly ten post offices a week have shut for good under the Labour government, but Royal Mail has defended its closure programme by arguing the change is needed to keep its business profitable.

“This has been a horribly botched exercise and there will be massive public support for the closure programme to be suspended whilst every aspect of it is reassessed,” Mr Duncan added.

The Conservatives are especially concerned about the closures’ negative impacts on elderly and disabled people, rural groups and new businesses.

Mr Duncan’s criticisms of the government’s access criteria are reflected in claims today that Royal Mail is hampering its efforts to implement local rescue packages.

The Local Government Association says it is concerned Royal Mail’s focus on profits means it is not fully committed to exploring provision of post office services in council buildings.

A spokesperson said it did not blame the organisation for its lack of enthusiasm as its charter requires it to make money, but said it sympathised with councils’ plight in attempting to help ordinary people.

Royal Mail, which is currently enduring weekly losses across the post network of £4 million, dismissed the obstruction claims as “absolute nonsense”.

A spokesman said: “The Post Office is having good and constructive discussions with a number of local councils about the future funding of Post Office branches.”