Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Very Model of a Modern Post Master General

I always marvel at the relevance of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, the latest Making Money is about Moist van Lipwig who we first met in Going Postal when Lord Vetinari appointed him the new Post Master General for Ankh Morpork. He has now been given control of the biggest bank and mint in the city because he has turned around the post office making it reliable, efficient and profitable. As the title suggests he has now been charged with making money.

It appears that possibly Terry in his infinite wisdom has taken a look at the current Labour government's policy on Post Offices and twisted it towards this logical conclusion. Yesterday when I returned home after writing about the closure of Post Offices coming to parts of Scotland I turned on the news to be bombarded my 'loyal' Labour Glasgow MPs being up in arms about the reduction of access to their constituents of much needed services, especially the elderly and those without access to private transport.

But what have they stood on at the last three elections as far as Post Offices are concerned. (Parenthesises mine)

In 1997 Labour promised in their manifesto:

'We will ensure that self-financing commercial organisations within the public sector - the Post Office is a prime example - are given greater commercial freedom to make the most of new opportunities.

'Life in our countryside

'Labour recognises the special needs of people who live and work in rural areas. The Conservatives do not. Public services and transport services in rural areas must not be allowed to deteriorate. The Conservatives have tried to privatise the Post Office. We opposed that, in favour of a public Post Office providing a comprehensive service. Conservative plans would mean higher charges for letters and put rural post offices under threat.'

In 2001:

'The Post Office and postal services

'We are committed to high-quality, universal postal services, and a dynamic Post Office which can thrive in a world of technological change and increased competitive pressure. Labour is working with the banks to offer a new universal banking service. This will allow all benefit and pension recipients to receive their payments, at no charge, in full at the post office after the switch to Automated Credit Transfer in 2003.

'We also intend the local post office to become an invaluable resource for access to government information. There will be increased incentives for people to take over and modernise post offices. Business customers, representing by far the majority of the Post Office’s turnover, want a full range of express, parcels and logistics services. We have given the Post Office greater commercial freedom in the public sector. It needs to be able to gain an advantage in the new postal market and become a leading force in domestic and international postal services through alliances and joint ventures. We want to help the Post Office keep up with the best in a fast-changing market.

'Rural life

'Labour is pledged to a rural services standard to set out specifically what rural people can expect from 21 public service providers - with annual auditing and commitments to service improvement. The rural school closure programme has been ended; 3,000 new, affordable homes a year are on the way; a £30 million police programme will help cut rural crime; £239 million over three years has been set aside for rural transport services; and the Post Office is now obliged to prevent closure of rural post offices except in unavoidable circumstances, with £270 million to help achieve this and recruit sub-postmasters.'

And in 2005:

'Thriving rural areas

'Since 1997, Labour has made it more difficult to close rural schools, put in £750 million to support rural post offices and introduced a 50 per cent rate relief on village shops.Through our £51 million Rural Bus Subsidy Grant we have delivered over 2,200 new bus services in rural areas this year.'


Not only has Labour been saying less an less about Post Offices over the last 10 years they have also clearly not been delivering on their own promises. Promises about how important the post offices should be, how everyone should still be able to get their benifits in full from their 'local' post office and that the Post Office will become a leading force in industry to take but three.


Anonymous said...

Actually, Terry Pratchett's latest book is The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld (Discworld fansite for more)

Stephen Glenn said...

Sorry Anonymous but in my opening paragraph I've clearly referred to Terry's novels and the latest of which is off course Making Money.

Of course there are other factional books based on his fantasy which come out all the time. But W&W just wouldn't have provided the premise on which to hang my comments.


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