When you read this you will realise that I have insufficient knowledge of the running of a Post Office, so I can only speak from my own experience. Like most pensioners today I only use Post Offices to post parcels, post special letters, and buy stamps. I would say that I need their services on average about once a fortnight. In our district our post offices are all part of flourishing businesses, and there is no shadow of doubt that I can’t remember when I last went into one of them and didn’t have to queue and queue and queue. One of the things that seems to have slipped the government’s mind is that today there an awful lot of people, housewives, retired men, and up-and-coming entrepreneurs, who are using the post offices for sending away articles that were purchased from them on the Internet. Many a time, I have stood and watched one of these people, in the queue ahead of me, with two or three large sacks, receiving a receipt that looked more like a toilet roll, than the receipts I’m normally used to. The Post Offices that I use, I can only reach by car and are several miles away in different directions and the main post office is on the other side of town.
I think the real problem is the supermarket. Before the 40s, small shops in the villages, miles from anywhere, fertile ground for gossip, were visited daily, because in those days fridges were almost unheard of, and so the storage of food was an ever-present problem. This is what we old codgers grew up with, and we looked upon the village shop and post office as an essential part of our lives. We all had post office savings books, and there was no such thing as an Internet. So when I think of the whole problem, the people whom I am concerned for, today, are those who receive benefit of one sort or another, gathered on a weekly basis at the local post office, who live hand to mouth, and if they were to get money, as many of us do on a monthly basis, they would be in serious financial trouble inside a fortnight, because the amounts that they handle are so small, the temptations are so great, and they, therefore, are the ones that we should be looking after.
If the country as a whole has decided that it prefers out-of-town shopping at the expense of the small shop which contains a Post Office facility, that is a legitimate choice. The big outlets have now made the small corner shop, upon which we depended so much in the past, almost impossible, by buying in such vast bulk and having such a tremendous throughput. We still have some corner shops, but I find that they too are dwindling, and there is not always one in a given area which contains a Post Office. In general we can no longer walk to our post offices, which is an indication of how few there are already. To do away with even more, I believe is nothing short of a mean approach to the needs of the few of us who’d still depend on them. The government needs to take a reassessment.
I think that the whole matter should be rethought on the basis of regional, and especially local need, primarily, even if the opening times are not necessarily on a daily basis, but just several days in the week. I believe that it is essential that some small shops are given financial encouragement to either retain, or obtain a Post Office licence, on the principle that government is here for the good of the people as a whole, and that the rich, must subsidise the poor. To my mind a levy, as part of the overall thrust, proportional to the need, and proportional to the marketing damage done by the out-of-town shops, should also be placed on those out-of-town shops, which that by their very nature, in primarily selling foodstuffs, have done away with our corner shops.
I’m not so stupid as to think it will happen, but I might as well suggest it. Unfortunately I only have something in the region of 400 readers a day If only the newspapers would take up the fight, TV run a survey of public opinion after proposals similar to mine have been put to the voters, perhaps we’ll get somewhere. This government with its huge majority, its incredible debt and its inability to see the wood for the trees, is unlikely to do anything unless it is forced by public opinion, as it is scared stiff of losing the next election.