The SNP’s Small Business spokesperson has renewed calls on the Tory government to urgently review pay levels for Post Office workers across the UK, and to set out measures to protect branches from the threat of further closures.
With 15 Santander branches set to close across Scotland, and with more than 230 bank branches in Scotland having been shut or marked for closure since 2015, businesses and local communities are increasingly reliant on Post Offices.
However, SNP MP Marion Fellows has warned that the bank branch closures have only further added to the challenges already facing Post Offices.
In the MP’s constituency of Motherwell and Wishaw, a number of sub-Postmasters turned down the opportunity to re-open one of the area’s Post Office branches, with Marion Fellows MP citing concerns over contracts and pay.
In 2017/18, Post Office profits rose to £35 million whilst 11,500 Post Office workers faced a combined £17m pay cut.
Citizens Advice revealed that over two million small businesses – 62% of small businesses in the UK – use Post Offices at least once a month. The research also revealed that most people (49%) found Post Office branches more important than a bank branch (31%), library (29%), or a pub (25%).
In response to a letter from the UK government’s minister for Postal Affairs Kelly Tolhurst, SNP MP Marion Fellows has called on the minister to set out what assessments the UK government has carried out over pay levels, remuneration packages for Post Office workers, and the franchising of Post Office branches to WHSmith.
Commenting, Marion Fellows MP said:
“Post Office branches are the backbone of local communities and the services they provide on the high street and in shopping centres are crucial to both businesses and the community.
“However, since 2015 more than 230 bank branches in Scotland have been shut or marked for closure and research suggests that local branches are closing faster in Scotland than any other part of the UK. This means that people are even more reliant on Post Offices for banking services. However, it is proving cost ineffective for sub-Postmasters.
“By providing remuneration on a commission only basis, whilst being open the exact same hours as their retail businesses, it is simply not fair for the UK government minister to say that ‘remuneration now reflects the time and cost-savings to Postmasters’.
“This is on top of the already difficult environment in which Post Office workers are operating due to pay cuts. Whilst profits rose to £35 million, 11,500 Post Office workers faced a combined £17m pay cut. That is simply unacceptable.
“The post office in central Wishaw is currently closed because a new sub-postmaster can’t be found. This is how dire things are getting and the UK Government is standing by watching it happen.
“As the special shareholder, it is the UK government’s duty to meet its responsibilities to the Post Office, sub-Postmasters and the public. It is not feasible to allow such valued community assets to decline so that profits can increase off the back of workers. There must be action.”