Ritchie Opposes Privatisation of Rural Post Offices
SOUTH Down MP Margaret Ritchie MP has warned of the dangers of privatising the postal service and spoken in favour of retaining post offices in rural areas.
Speaking ahead of a debate in the House of Commons today (Monday 2 September), which she participated in, Ms Ritchie said: “The mail and postal service plays a key role in the life of my constituents, and stands at the centre of much that is good in the local community.
The local post office and the mail service are central to both economic and social life in South Down. The postal service plays a vital role in connecting our society, especially for the elderly and mostvulnerable who may be excluded from other forms of communication.
“Further cuts to our postal service risk isolating many in our society by creating a two-tier network that separates the connected and the dislocated and such a development would be bad for our society and bad for our economy.
“I am worried that the inevitable market pressures from privatisation will place further strain across the postal service and parts that are not as profitable, especially in remote or rural areas, will be closed. We should not and cannot let this happen. As we have witnessed with previous privatisations once the horse has bolted and the rational of market practices takes force it can be a very difficult to reverse or even moderate the impacts. And despite assurances to the contrary, the end result is likely to be a reduced and more expensive service with a particular fear that rural services will be the canary in the coal mine.
“We have received lukewarm reassurances that the universal service obligation will be retained but again the fear is that once a private owner comes under financial and competitive pressure they will seek to change the terms of this important social compact. It will be completely unacceptable at any point for rural customers to have to pay more for their service and I want assurances that this will never be the case and that we are not on a slippery slope toward the erosion of the universal service obligation.
“Where modernisation puts postal services back at the centre of the local community and acts to drive the rural economy I am completely behind it. For example, there is a clear case for allowing post offices to provide transaction services for high street banks from their branches. However, I fear that this modernisation plan will leave a reduced service at a higher cost to the consumer and call on the UK government to ensure that rural services are protected,” added Ms Ritchie.