SNP MP, Marion Fellows, has today written to UK Business Secretary, Alok Sharma MP, to continue the public subsidy of Post Office Ltd to prevent branch closures and to provide clarity on ‘Project Neo’.

Correspondence from Post Office CEO, Nick Reade, says that Post Office Ltd’s Project Neo will aim at “delivering lower costs” and look at the “future size, shape and design” of the network.

The same letter also states that Post Office Ltd will struggle to break even in a year where it has been hit by the Covid crisis and may have to pay out more to sub-Postmasters affected by the Horizon scandal.

In response to a question in Parliament from Mrs Fellows on 16 June, Small Business Minister Paul Scully MP refused to provide assurances to sub-Postmasters and communities that the public subsidy would be extended in the 2020 Spending Review.

Mrs Fellows says the subsidy – worth £50m in 2020/21 – must continue and that Covid and Horizon cannot be allowed to damage the Post Office network, staff and access to community services.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“The UK Government must take the Post Office off the pathway to privatisation and provide assurances to staff and communities that the public subsidy will be extended.

“Covid-19, Horizon, and years of mismanagement and executive profiteering cannot be used as an excuse to close branches, cut jobs, and deprive communities of key services.

“Project Neo reads like a scheme intent on closing or franchising branches. As the special shareholder to Post Office Ltd, the UK Government must guarantee they will not allow this to happen and provide clarity on Project Neo. The Post Office Access Criteria must be upheld to protect already precarious access to branches.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, sub-Postmasters have proven just how essential they are to communities. They are providing a valued public service. But many are resigning creating a Postmaster crisis. The UK Government must support them.”