Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham today raised his concerns about the changes made to the Post Offices in Norton, Billingham, and Stockton High Street.
Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate on Post Office closures, Alex likened the move as privatisation through the back door, ignoring the public consultation that took place and putting staff at risk of losing their employment. Last year, the Norton Post Office was moved half a mile away from the High Street and instead buried within another shop, with the Billingham Crown Office branch being closed, making it one of 37 to be closed and franchised.
During the debate, Mr Cunningham said all three major communities in his constituency had been downgraded and highlighted the points made by the Communications Workers Union:
“The impact on customers – queue times, services time, disabled access, and customer service.
“Replacing good jobs with insecure employment – the majority of staff in a Crown office will leave when it is closed and a franchise partner is found.
“The use of public money – the Post Office will not confirm how much money it has given to retailers such as WH Smith. Perhaps the Minister can tell us?
“And the wider social and economic impact – the loss of jobs, the removal of the physical shop from the High Street.”
Intervening once more further into the debate, Alex also put to the Government:
“Doesn’t the minister think it will be better for the taxpayer to invest in services in Post Offices to prevent some of these closures, and therefore maintain services for our communities?
Responding on behalf of the Government, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial strategy said:
“I agree with the honourable gentleman that we need to invest, but I’m afraid that one of the aspects of investment does involve making the existing structure more affordable.”
“When this Government talks about making services more affordable, what they mean is that they will cut the services to the bone until they have no choice but to privatise them. This will only create more problems for customers when they find products and services becoming more expensive, less readily available, and more difficult to use.”
For more information please contact Alex Cunningham on 01642 345291.