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Fairness and Security in Old Age

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:50 pm on 10th September 2003.

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Photo of Patsy Calton Patsy Calton Liberal Democrat, Cheadle 1:50 pm, 10th September 2003

I am extremely grateful for the Minister's intervention, because I hope that such thinking will go into the decision on Cheadle road post office. If it does, that post office will undoubtedly be saved or some alternative arrangements will be made. Unfortunately, that has not been the pattern so far in my constituency, and we await the results of the so-called consultation any day now, which we are concerned will affect real people in real communities. The fact that they do not live in a rural area but, according to the Post Office, in a so-called urban sprawl, means that they do not get as much consideration as people who live in rural areas.

We should maintain old people's independence, and ensure that they do not lose their links with the community. I tried the House's patience by reading out all those names, but there are dozens more people in the same position. If this post office closes—and I have no reason to suppose that it will be treated differently from the others—the cost of social services and health care will rise as all those people become isolated and dependent on others. I am delighted that they want to remain independent in their 80s and 90s. I glory in their desire to do so. The post office makes that possible, and motivates them to go out and collect their pensions by whatever means they choose. There is no local bank, and if the post office is taken away many of them will be unable to make the journey on their own. Along with local shops, the post office is central to their independence.

If the closure is really necessary, what will be done to promote and maintain that independence? It is not sufficient to say that more will be spent on social care and health, for these are people who want to live without those services. Could not post offices, with the Government's encouragement, form an association with supermarkets? Could there not be mobile post offices? They would be a valuable accessory to the mobile library in Stockport, which has made a real difference, although Stockport is an urban area surrounded by suburbs.

It is simply not right to say that the council tax is applied fairly. In my constituency, which is considered to be affluent, its application takes no account of the fact that 51 per cent. of people in the borough are receiving either pensions or benefits.