North Disappointment at Council Reluctance to use Post Offices
6 August 2007
Labourís Highlands and Islands Regional MSP, Peter Peacock, has expressed his disappointment at the response he received from Highland Council following a letter urging the council to utilise the post office network for council services to help save local post offices.
Peter Peacock said, "I wrote to the convener and to the leader of the SNP group on the council highlighting the UK governmentís plans to maintain their subsidy for the post office network and to support 500 new outreach services, some of which could come to the Highlands and Islands.
"While the convener gave me a full response, I am still awaiting a response from the SNP leader.
"One way for the new council to support the post office network is to ensure the council itself uses the post office to provide more key council services.
"This would build on pilot programmes such as mobile post office and satellite outreach services which have been trialled in Caithness and Ross-shire.
"I urged the council to offer maximum rating relief to post offices and to work in partnership with post offices by providing access to council facilities for outreach services, including mobile library services.
"I am pleased the council will help with rating relief and the reply I have received reveals that in the last year 87 post offices received over £38,000 in rating relief.
"However, overall the councilís response seems reluctant to fully embrace the role post offices could play.
"Indeed, the council have made clear they are keen to take customers away from the post office in collecting council tax and their reply reveals they have persuaded over 1,500 post office customers to take their business away from local post offices.
"The council also seem reluctant and maybe even unwilling to extend more routine services Ė like giving disabled badges and benefits applications - through post offices.
Peter Peacock concluded, "I applaud the council for wanting to be efficient and save council taxpayers money in how they deliver services.
"That is fine in itself, but I hope the council wonít then be complaining at any post office closures if they, themselves, are taking customers away as therein lies the essential problem with post office viability.
"I will continue to press the post office to locate some of their new outreach services in the Highlands and I will also continue to press the council to do as much as they can to better utilise the post offices."
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