POST OFFICES MUST BE PUBLIC PROCUREMENT PRIORITY

25th July 2019

CALLS FOR JOHNSON AND PATEL TO SUPPORT POSTMASTERS BY PLEDGING CONTINUED PROVISION OF GOVERNMENT SERVICES THROUGH POST OFFICES

Today, Marion Fellows MP, the SNP’s Westminster Small Business spokesperson, has called on Boris Johnson and the new Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to commit to protect and expand UK Government services provided through the Post Office to support sub-Postmasters.

In April this year, a survey carried out by the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters found that 22% of 1,000 sub-Postmasters survey plan on closing, handing over or downsizing their branch as 76% say they earn less than the hourly national minimum wage.

The Home Office states that a decision on continuing its contract with Post Office Ltd to provide collections for Biometric Residence Permits to July 2020 is “imminent”.

Since 2012, the contract has been worth £10.2m to Post Office Ltd. Mrs Fellows has written to Priti Patel to demand that this contract, and more, continue.

In 2018, the Home Office contracted Sopra Steria Ltd to provide Biometric enrolments which were previously provided by Post Office Ltd. The service has drastically reduced as applicants can only enrol at 57 locations compared to 115 under the Post Office.

From 2015 to April 2019, Biometric enrolment contracts were worth £6m to Post Office Ltd. Sopra Steria have been awarded £91m to develop a new digital via and immigration service including Biometric enrolments.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“Boris Johnson must commit a renewed vision for Post Offices to protect and expand the number of Government services provided through branches to support the network and sub-Postmasters. He needs to reverse the managed decline of a valued public asset caused by previous Prime Ministers which has taken the network to crisis point by making branches service hubs.

“Johnson’s new Home Secretary, Priti Patel, must match this commitment and pledge to renew the contract to collect Biometric Residence Permits with Post Office Ltd. The network of Post Offices across the UK makes them the obvious choice. They must be given priority for any public contracts.

“With Post Office Ltd reporting record profits, they need to pass profits onto sub-Postmasters or face a mass exodus where communities will lose out.

“Outsourcing has proven to result in poorer standards and lower access while shareholders profit from vital public services. The Post Office network exists, and our sub-Postmasters want to do the work.”

Letter to Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP:

Dear the Rt. Hon. Priti Patel MP,

I am writing regarding an urgent matter related to a contract your department has with Post Office Ltd to provide Biometric Residence Permits collections across their network of branches. In a previous written answer, a Minister said that a decision on whether this contract is extended was “imminent”. To date there has been no announcement. I write to ask that you opt to extend this contract to support the Post Office network, sub-Postmasters and communities.

In April this year, a survey carried out by the National Federation of Sub-Postmasters found that 22% of 1,000 sub-Postmasters survey plan on closing, handing over or downsizing their branch as 76% say they earn less than the hourly national minimum wage. The Post Office network is reaching crisis point. A sudden exodus of sub-Postmasters would leave communities without vital services and lead the corrosion of a valued public asset.

I have taken this matter up directly with the Ministers from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, but all UK Government departments can play their part in supporting Post Offices and sub-Postmasters through procurement.

In 2018, the Home Office contracted Sopra Steria Ltd to provide Biometric enrolments which were previously provided by Post Office Ltd. The service has drastically reduced as applicants can only enrol at 57 locations compared to 115 under the Post Office. This decision also meant Post Office Ltd was missing out on £6m from the contract between 2015 and April 2019.

The contract to collect Biometric Residence Permits has been worth £10.2m since 2012. This and other contracts must be protected and expanded upon to ensure they are accessible through a wide network of Post Offices across Scotland and the rest of the UK and so they can be utilised to support a loved public asset and sub-Postmasters.

I hope that you choose to extend the contract and look at Post Offices as an automatic option for the provision of future Home Office services.

Sincerely,