The Social Liberal Forum supports the Coalition Government’s commitment to maintain and develop the network of post offices. In particular, it warmly welcomes the announcement from the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, that he will be doubling the subsidy to the Post Office over the next four years.
We greatly regret the closure of some 2,500 post offices by the previous Labour Government, as we are very aware of the impact of their loss on many small communities, especially in rural areas. Liberal Democrats believe in supporting and enhancing the role of post offices, and in future would like to see many more services available through them.
For some time, post offices have offered access to a range of public services offered by DVLA, the Passport Office, the Royal Mail and its own banking accounts. Some councils already encourage people to make payments through post offices, and we believe that they could become the local access point of choice for public services.
The SLF does, however, have some concerns about the privatisation of Royal Mail. Lib Dem party policy is to support the injection of much-needed private capital, but crucially 51% would remain in public hands through a mix of mutualisation and direct public ownership; the same arguments for keeping the Post Office network in public hands apply to Royal Mail too, particularly given the pressing need to retain a universal and affordable service. Indeed, whilst we support employee ownership, we believe a greater proportion than 10% should be owned in this way.
The SLF therefore reiterates its strong support for Coalition policy towards the Post Office, and calls on Liberal Democrat ministers to carefully bear in mind the impact of reforms to Royal Mail, giving full consideration to increased worker-and public-ownership.