I totally agree. The crux of the matter is that if we allow things to continue as they are, there will be a continual and continuous decline in the post office network until it reaches a tipping point and is no longer viable. We will all lose out, but the most vulnerable in our society will be affected the most.
In 2019, it was announced that from April sub-postmasters will receive better financial remuneration from Post Office Ltd for key banking services that they provide to the public. At the NFSP annual conference, the Post Office Ltd announced that it will raise the rates. That is great—it will be a threefold increase—but we must ask ourselves why the Post Office felt the need to do that and why it was not done earlier. A local sub-postmaster came to me and said that he was getting the grand rate of £1.88 an hour for dealing with cash intake to his branch. He will feel much better that he will get more money, but post offices are taking the place of banks, and that is not always right.
I was part of a group of Scottish National party MPs who tried to ensure that banking service provision is properly remunerated. To be fair, the issue was also raised by Members from other parties. I raised the issue at Prime Minister’s questions, and my hon. Friend Gavin Newlands raised it during an Adjournment debate that he led last year. If people think that I sound repetitive, it is because I am being repetitive. Since I came to this place, five Ministers have been in place; today’s Minister is the sixth to have responded to a debate on post offices in which I have spoken. That cannot go on.
We welcome the changes that are happening, but it is vital that the details prove sufficient to protect postmasters’ livelihood and the network. Further improvements are needed to help to future-proof sub-postmasters’ business. The announced measures must not be the end of Post Office Ltd’s actions.