I have been contacted by the Communication Workers Union in relation to Early Day Motion 1751: Crown Post Office Closure and Privatisation. The CWU has expressed deep concern about the increased privatisation of Crown Post Offices and the impact that this has on service and jobs. As Shadow Justice Secretary, I am unable to sign EDMs, however I completely agree with the CWU’s sentiment and offer my support.
The Crown Post Office is a national institution that requires safeguarding from job loss. Privatisation drives income reduction, which puts the jobs and livelihoods of our hard-working Postmasters in real jeopardy. Private enterprise can only prioritise profit, and private Post Offices will inevitably put this before service and staff. This creates an insecure working environment, which has been historically proven to have a negative impact on staff retention, motivation and attendance. If we have a postal service that puts profits before people, the people will leave and this will threaten the integrity and sustainability of our postal network.
74 Crown Post Offices will be closed and franchised to WHSmith, which will mean a total loss of 60% of Crown offices since 2013. This closure and franchising is being funded by taxpayer money, which could be better spent elsewhere, and is being used without consultation or endorsement. In 2014-15, £13m of public money was used to pay staff compensation following closures, and the CWU estimates that the latest privatisation efforts will cost a further £30m, with 800 jobs now at risk.
Consumer Focus (2012) and Citizens Advice (2016) research showed that WHSmith franchises resulted in longer queuing times, inferior service and advice and poor disabled access. WHSmith relies on a business model of part-time, insecure work and low pay, which is far from the anchor our national postal service needs to run efficiently. Here in Bolton South East, I urged constituents to engage in the consultation about the closure of the Deansgate Crown Post Office and its downgrading and relocation to Oxford Street as part of a private retail franchise. Despite 74% of voters in The Bolton News opposing it, and my own work to safeguard a publicly owned and run postal service, the decision went ahead. I have consistently voted against the privatisation of the postal service in Parliament and am deeply concerned to see public opinion disregarded.
I encourage my colleagues to sign EDM 1751 and urge the Minister to recognise the very real threat to jobs, service and our town centres, which are seeing listed buildings run empty in favour of short-term profit.