NEWSPAPER COLUMN: POST OFFICE CLOSURES

Post Offices provide a vital lifeblood for local residents and small businesses. But the Tory UK government isn’t doing enough to protect our communities from the damaging impact of local branch closures – as evidenced by the difficulties caused by the ongoing ‘temporary’ loss of Post Office services in Hardgate.

Our network of Post Office branches is run by Post Office Ltd on behalf of the UK government; a government which claims to be committed to safeguarding the vital services they offer. The reality is though that there has been a slow and steady deterioration in the Post Office network as a result of cuts to support by the UK government.

Figures from the House of Commons Library show that over the past 15 years the number of Post Office branches in Scotland has fallen by more 25 per cent. Hundreds of local urban and rural Post Offices across Scotland are no longer in operation, and as ever it is the most vulnerable in society who suffer as a result.

Our local Post Office in Hardgate has been closed since February 2017, leaving the communities of Hardgate, Faifley and Duntocher without convenient access to these services for over 15 months. Government guidelines state that urban areas should be within one mile of their nearest Post Office, yet local residents, many of which are elderly and vulnerable, are currently forced to travel up to 3 miles to access the branch at Clyde Shopping Centre.

This is completely unacceptable. Vibrant communities like ours need access to the postal, banking and government services offered through Post Offices now more so than ever – not least due to the wave of bank closures across the country.

Last week RBS chairman Ross McEwan sought to play down the impact of bank branch closures by telling a committee of MPs that people can access banking services through their local Post Office. However, Hardgate has now lost both its RBS bank branch and access to Post Office facilities due to these closures in recent years.

Post Office Ltd state that Hardgate Post Office is only closed temporarily, but local residents are understandably concerned that the closure may become permanent if a suitable operator isn’t found soon.

I recently met with bosses at Post Office Ltd to underline the detrimental impact this is having, and pressing the need for Post Office facilities to be returned to the communities of Hardgate, Faifley and Duntocher as soon as possible.

I have been given assurances that they are exploring all options, and would encourage any local businesses interested in becoming a Post Office partner to come forward.

I will continue doing all I can to ensure that Post Office Ltd fulfils its commitment to returning access to these vital services for local residents and businesses.

If you have been impacted by the closure of Hardgate Post Office, please get in touch via martin.docherty.mp@parliament.uk or 0141 952 2988 so I can pass on your views to Post Office Ltd.

This column appeared in the Clydebank Post on 16th May 2018.

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